The talk will discuss both theory and approaches aimed at understanding what drives learning the foundational concepts that allow for complex human communication in adulthood. All learners possess remarkable learning mechanisms that operate throughout the lifetime to start with very little knowledge in infancy and eventually create sophisticated systems of knowledge (e.g. categories and concepts, language). We discuss recent empirical findings about learners’ cognitive mechanisms—including attention, curiosity, and metacognition (knowledge about your knowledge)—that permit such striking learning throughout infancy and childhood, with special emphasis on language development. We will review relevant work on statistical learning in infancy, and discuss how humans leverage existing knowledge to guide their search for subsequent knowledge. We will conclude by touching on some recent work from our lab about how language learning is never really done, and rather concepts shift throughout the lifetime to reflect changing statistics in the world.

Video Recording