How do humans conceptualize time? One clear pattern is that temporal concepts are based on spatial ones, however how this is done is not universally determined in the human brain and varies significantly across cultures.
What information can young children use to aid them in understanding spoken language? Recent work in the Creel lab shows that preschoolers are able to use who is talking to limit the set of things that person might talk about.
Though prediction has been proposed across a variety of neural domains, language has not traditionally been one of them - until recently. Using event-related brain potentials, we show that prediction is part and parcel of sentence comprehension.
Artificial agents such as humanoid robots and interactive animated characters are rapidly becoming participants in many aspects of social and cultural life. With applications in domains such as education and health care, we need to understand human factors guiding our perceptions of and interactions with these agents.
Inhibitory control is the ability to withhold or modify prepotent or planned actions that are no longer appropriate in a behavioral context. We are studying the computational and neurophysiological basis of inhibitory control in healthy individuals and those affected by conditions such as ADHD and stimulant abuse.
The ability to recall our experiences as they evolved over time is truly an impressive feat accomplished in large part through the working of a thumb-sized portion of the brain called the hippocampus. How the brain encodes memories is a difficult, but exciting and burgeoning area of neuroscientific research.
The introduction of computer workstations into the medical interview process makes it important to consider the impact of such technology on older patients as well as new types of interfaces that may better suit the needs of older adults.
ChronoViz is a system to aid annotation, visualization, navigation, and analysis of multimodal time-coded data. Exploiting interactive paper technology, ChronoViz also integrates researcher's paper notes into the composite data set. The goal is to decrease the time and effort required to analyze multimodal data by providing direct indexing and flexible mechanisms to control data exploration.
Speakers of many languages around the world rely on body-‐based contrasts (e.g. left/right) for spatial communication and cognition. Speakers of Yupno, a language of Papua New Guinea’s mountainous interior, rely instead on an environment-‐based uphill/downhill contrast. Body-‐based contrasts are as easy to use indoors as outdoors, but environment-‐ based contrasts may not be. Do Yupno speakers still use uphill/downhill contrasts indoors and, if so, how? We report three studies on spatial communication within the Yupno house. Even in this Hlat world, uphill/downhill contrasts are pervasive. However, the terms are not used according to the slopes beyond the house’s walls, as reported in other groups. Instead, the house is treated as a microworld, with a "conceptual topography" that is strikingly reminiscent of the physical topography of the Yupno valley. The phenomenon illustrates some of the distinctive properties of environment-‐based reference systems, as well as the universal power and plasticity of spatial contrasts.
Young children often hear speech in unfamiliar accents, but relatively little research characterizes their comprehension capacity. The current study tested preschoolers’ comprehension of familiar-accented vs. unfamiliar-accented speech with varying levels of contextual support from sentence frames (full sentences vs. isolated words) and from visual context (four salient pictured alternatives, vs. the absence of salient visual referents). The familiar-accent advantage was more robust when visual context was absent, suggesting that previous findings of good accent comprehension in infants and young children may result from ceiling effects in easier tasks (picture fixation, picture selection) relative to the more-difficult tasks often used with older children and adults. In contrast to prior work on mispronunciations, where most errors were novel-object responses, children in the current study did not select novel-object referents above chance levels. This suggests that some property of accented speech may dissuade children from inferring that an unrecognized familiar-but-accented word has a novel referent. Finally, children showed detectable accent processing difficulty despite presumed incidental community exposure. Results suggest that preschoolers’ accented speech comprehension is still developing, consistent with theories of protracted development of speech processing.
How are languages learned, and to what extent are learning mechanisms similar in infant native-language (L1) and adult second-language (L2) acquisition? In terms of vocabulary acquisition, we know from the infant literature that the ability to discriminate similar-sounding words at a particular age does not guarantee successful word–meaning mapping at that age (Stager & Werker, 1997). However, it is unclear whether this difficulty arises from developmental limitations of young infants (e.g., poorer working memory) or whether it is an intrinsic part of the initial word learning, L1 and L2 alike. In this study, we show that adults of particular L1 backgrounds—just like young infants—have difficulty learning similar-sounding L2 words that they can nevertheless discriminate perceptually. This suggests that the early stages of word learning, whether L1 or L2, intrinsically involve difficulty in mapping similar- sounding words onto referents. We argue that this is due to an interaction between 2 main factors: (a) memory limitations that pose particular challenges for highly similar-sounding words, and (b) uncertainty regarding the language’s phonetic categories, because the categories are being learned concurrently with words. Overall, our results show that vocabulary acquisition in infancy and adulthood shares more similarities than previously thought, thus supporting the existence of common learning mechanisms that operate throughout the life span.
Much research has explored developing sound representations in language, but less work
addresses developing representations of other sound patterns. This study examined preschool children’s musical representations using two different tasks: discrimination and sound–picture association. Melodic contour—a musically relevant property—and instrumental timbre, which is (arguably) less musically relevant, were tested. In Experiment 1, children failed to associate cartoon characters to melodies with maximally different pitch contours, with no advantage for melody preexposure. Experiment 2 also used different-contour melodies and found good discrimination, whereas association was at chance. Experiment 3 replicated Experiment 2, but with a large timbre change instead of a contour change. Here, discrimination and association were both excellent. Preschool-aged children may have stronger or more durable representations of timbre than contour, particularly in more difficult tasks. Reasons for weaker association of contour than timbre information are discussed, along with implications for auditory development.
Three faculty members of the University of California San Diego have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the country’s most esteemed honorary societies and independent policy research centers.