When Object Color is a Red Herring: Extraneous Perceptual Information Hinders Word Learning via Referent Selection

Jessica Horst, Katherine Twomey, Rosie Nurse, Angelo Cangelosi

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Abstract

Learning words from ambiguous naming events is difficult. In such situations, children struggle with not attending to task irrelevant information when learning object
names. The current study reduces the problem space of learning names for object categories by holding color constant between the target and other extraneous objects. We examine how this influences two types of word learning (retention and generalization) in both 30-month-old children (Experiment 1) and the iCub humanoid robot (Experiment 2). Overall, all children and iCub performed well on the retention trials, but they were only able to generalize the novel names to new exemplars of the target categories if the objects were originally encountered in sets with objects of the same colors, not if the objects were originally encountered in sets with objects of different colors. These data demonstrate that less information presented during the learning phase narrows the problem space and leads to better word learning success for both children and iCub. Findings are discussed in terms of cognitive load and desirable difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems
Early online date22 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Keywords

  • word learning
  • developmental robotics
  • cognitive development
  • Language acquisition

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