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Clinical forum: Salience in word learning under ambiguous conditions

Gabrielle Weidemann, associate professor in psychology at Western Sydney University, will come to the Forum for Clinical Linguistics and Language Acquisition September 5th to give a lecture titled «The influence of word and object salience on word learning under ambiguous conditions». The event will take place in English and is open to everyone.

Bilde av Gabrielle Weidemann


In learning new words an association must be formed between a word and its referent, however in many circumstances there are many words and many possible referents, and associations are formed across time and contexts. This process has been modelled experimentally using cross-situational word learning paradigms where participants are presented with multiple words and multiple referents across multiple trials. However there is some debate about the underlying mechanisms, whether it is a form of statistical associative learning or a memory-based inference mechanism or some hybrid of the two. In a series of experiments using a cross-situational word learning paradigm, we manipulated the salience of words, and object referents in isolation and in combination in order to examine the mechanisms of association formation. We found that within experiments manipulations of word salience increased learning for both salient and non-salient words, whereas with experiment manipulations of object salience in isolation and in combination with word salience manipulations learning was impaired. Modelling suggests that manipulations of word salience increased learning through increasing word discriminability and that object salience captured attention but did not facilitate association formation, indicative of the operation of an a more inferential process.

About the lecturer

Gabrielle Weidemann is associate professor in psychology at Western Sydney University. She has a PhD within neuroscience from the University of New South Wales, and one of her research topics is associative learning in humans. Here, she combines behavioral methods (e.g. reaction time) with physiological methods such as skin conduction, heart rhytm, EMG, eyeblink responses and fMRI.

Published Aug. 27, 2019 11:22 AM - Last modified Nov. 25, 2020 2:53 PM