Formal theories clarify the complex: Generalizing a neural process account of the interaction of visual exploration and word learning in infancy

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The interaction of visual exploration and auditory processing is central to early cognitive development, supporting object discrimination, categorization, and word learning. Research has shown visual–auditory interactions to be complex, created from multiple processes and changing over multiple timescales. To better understand these interactions, we generalize a formal neural process model of early word learning to two studies examining how words impact 9- to 22-month-olds' attention to novelty. These simulations clarify the origin and nature of previously demonstrated effects of labels on visual exploration and the basis of mutual exclusivity effects in word learning. We use our findings to discuss key questions for this special section: what makes a good theory and how should formal theories interface with empirical paradigms and findings?.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1491-1510
Number of pages20
JournalChild Development
Issue number6
Early online date30 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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