chapter  7
Pattern Learning in Infants and Neural Networks
ByMichael Gasser, Eliana Colunga
Pages 22

Two recent sets of experiments have greatly expanded our understanding of the capacity of infants to detect regularities in patterns. Saffran, Aslin, and Newport (1996) conducted a set of experiments to investigate the sensitivity of infants to the statistical properties of patterns. Eight-month-old infants heard strings of syllables consisting of randomly concatenated three-syllable “words”, sequences that never varied internally. Thus the transition probabilities within words were higher than between words. There were four different words consisting of 12 different syllables, and the subjects heard 180 words in all. Later the infants indicated, through differences in looking times, that they differentiated between these words and nonword three-syllable sequences, which they had either heard with less frequency than the words (because they consisted of sequences of syllables that crossed word boundaries) or not heard at all. This is taken as evidence that they had picked up the statistics in the training set. More recent experiments (Saffran, Johnson, Aslin, & Newport, 1999) have achieved similar results with patterns consisting of tones of different pitches.