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Learning and the Infant Mind$
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Amanda Woodward and Amy Needham

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195301151

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195301151.001.0001

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What Can Statistical Learning Tell Us About Infant Learning?

What Can Statistical Learning Tell Us About Infant Learning?

(p.29) 2 What Can Statistical Learning Tell Us About Infant Learning?
Learning and the Infant Mind

Jenny R. Saffran

Oxford University Press

This chapter uses statistical learning as a model system to consider broader issues and implications pertaining to the role of learning in development. Statistical learning is an old idea, with roots in mid-20th-century fields of inquiry as diverse as structural linguistics, early neuroscience, and operant conditioning paradigms. Two broad claims underlie the statistical learning literature. First, important structures in the environment are mirrored by surface statistics. Second, organisms are in fact sensitive to these patterns in their environments. This combination of environmental structure and learning mechanisms that can exploit this structure is the central tenet of theories focused on learning — in this case, the potent combination of informative statistics in the input paired with processes that can make use of such statistics.

Keywords:   infants, infant learning, statistical models, structural linguistics, operant conditioning paradigms

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