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NYU / OTHER / PSYCH-UA 1 012 / How do we learn new words?

How do we learn new words?

How do we learn new words?


School: New York University
Department: OTHER
Course: Intro to Psychology
Professor: Marjorie rhodes
Term: Spring 2017
Tags: NYU, Psychology, Intro to Psychology, psych, psychology nyu, Language, and thinking
Cost: 25
Name: Intro to Psych: W-7, L-4, 5 Notes
Description: Week 7 Notes L-4: Language L-5: Thinking
Uploaded: 03/09/2017
12 Pages 43 Views 8 Unlocks

Eun-Sung Chang

How do we learn new words?

Intro to Psych

Week 7

Lecture 4 (3/6/17): Language

What is Language?

• Human language – no limit to what we can communicate

o Expressive range is unlimited ???? no other species seem to have this  ability

• Other animal language – can communicate only a small set of ideas o Conspecific – means member of the same species

o Ex.) Honey bee waggle dance

▪ Somewhat complex ???? precise movements to communicate  where nectar is, limited because it communicates only food  


▪ Restricted to communicating certain kinds of language ???? can’t  communicate if a predator is coming, what the weather is like,  etc.

What is the meaning of social referencing?



What is the meaning of novelty matching?

If you want to learn more check out What is the meaning of anomie theories?
We also discuss several other topics like According to piaget, schemes are mental structures that infants use to understand the world. they use these to group similar things and with experience, these schemes change. the changes are called what?

            Semantics  Phonology



• Semantics – meaning of words ???? words are arbitrary and conventional • How do we learn new words?

o You learn new words just by interacting with others who speak your  native language ???? new words come imbedded in sentences with  other words Don't forget about the age old question of What is the meaning of signifier-signified?

• Parsing problem – pauses between words when someone else is speaking  are not a good indicator to separate words

o Children use subtle statistical properties of their language

• Reference problem

1. Social referencing – guides where you look/pay attention to ▪ Children will look at your eyes to see what you’re looking at to  connect it with what you say

2. Novelty matching – implies the more words you know, the easier it is  to learn new words We also discuss several other topics like What is the difference between obsessions and compulsions?

▪ Children tend to assume things have only 1 name

3. Intentionality – uses speaker’s intentions to guide understanding of  new words

▪ Ex.) If a kid at recess says “Let’s ‘dax’ Mickey!” and then pushes  Mickey head first down a slide ???? other kids will have no  

problem understanding what “dax” means (even though it isn’t  a word)

4. Category assumption – children will assume categories with what they see

▪ Ex.) If a parent says “ball” and associates the word with a  

baseball and tennis ball ???? child will associate the word “ball”  

with multiple types of balls (not only 1 type of ball)


• Phonology – sound of words

1. Detection & Discrimination

o We need to detect/decode what others are saying

o Categorical perception – we perceive slight differences in speech ▪ Ex.) we can tell between a “b” and a “p” even though the  We also discuss several other topics like What refers to the commercial, legal name of a company?

differences are small ???? voice onset time is the only difference

o Phoneme – building blocks of speech sounds

▪ There is no difference in the “l” and “r” sounds in Japanese ???? Japanese has 1 intermediate sound that combines the 2

▪ Newborn babies can hear differences between slight  

differences in any given speech sound (any language), but lose  the ability in 10-12 months ???? “citizens of the world”

2. Production If you want to learn more check out Lipid soluble can penetrate the skin through where?

o Motor homunculus – devoted to motor control of mouth/throat  because differences in speech involve different movements in those  areas

▪ Ex.) Cooing – mostly vowel “ah” sounds

▪ Ex.) Babbling – includes consonants and vowels/more distinct  syllabic chunks ???? not specific to spoken language (infants can  also babble in sign language)


• Syntax – many words are put together to make complex utterances like  sentences

• Word order is important ???? produces different meaning

o Ex.) “Dog bites man” vs. “man bites dog” ???? has 2 completely  different meanings

• Making infinite use of finite media

o Ex.) DNA – uses 4 nucleotides but combines them in such complex  ways that everyone has different DNA

• Universal Grammar – Noam Chomsky

o All languages have identifiable subjects, verbs, and objects ▪ Deep commonalities across different languages ???? suggests  there are basic defaults

• Most languages are SVO (like English) or SOV

o Fewer are VSO

o <1% are OVS

o None are OSV

o Children spontaneously “invent” grammatical structure

▪ Ex.) Pidgin/creole speakers – pidgin used to communicate  

simple/not complex ideas; children of pidgin developed creole  that was perfectly grammatical/more complex than pidgin

▪ Ex.) Nicaraguan sign language – younger sign language users  had more hierarchical grammatical structure in their motions  

that older users

o Rules (grammar) and words (meaning) are separable

▪ Ex.) “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” – sentence is  

grammatically correct but doesn’t make sense realistically

▪ Broca’s aphasia – trouble with syntax, no trouble with meaning ▪ Wernicke’s aphasia – trouble with meaning, no trouble with  syntax

• How do children learn syntax?

o NOT through direct instruction – parents do not sit their kids down  and teach them the exact order of every sentence

o NOT through imitation – children say sentences that have never been  said before, they apply grammatical rules to everything

o NOT through reinforcement – parental feedback isn’t always about  grammar, could be about semantics (most of the time)

o Born with language – babies come prepared/hard-wired to learn  language

▪ Critical/sensitive period for syntax development

• Ex.) Case of Genie – locked in closet, not given any  

speech exposure, could not speak a word ????rescued at  

13, rescuers had some success teaching her words but  

she never really learned complex language/grammar


• Pragmatics – way language is actually used in practice

• Literal meaning vs. pragmatics

o Implicature – Paul Grice

▪ What the speaker implies with his/her utterances

▪ Principle of charity – listeners expect speakers to be  

informative, truthful, relevant, clear, unambiguous, brief,  


• Other aspects of pragmatics

o Emphasis on different words in a sentence can change the  meaning/interpretation

▪ Ex.) “I never said she stole my money” – way you say the  

sentence/emphasize certain words changes the interpretation

Myth about Language

• Chimpanzee language

o Ex.) Nim Chimpsky – able to say rudimental/simple things in English  ???? not grammatically correct

▪ Chimps are smart, can learn to understand some human signs,  but do not develop human language as well as toddlers

▪ Whatever humans have, chimps don’t have it ???? language  seems to be unique to humans

Lecture 5 (3/8/17): Thinking

Higher-Order Cognition

• Time – 0 ???? infinity


PAST – “things that  were”


basic hardware


PRESENT – “things  that are”





FUTURE – “things that  have not yet come to  pass”




• Prospecting – uniquely human form of intelligence that enables us to think  about “far”-future events; way about thinking about things that will happen  in the future

o Ex.) If you’ve never been skydiving and want/don’t want to later on  in life ???? you are thinking about the future ???? imagine what it’s like  to free fall in the air

▪ Unique human ability, animals probably can’t think that much  further ahead

o Humans usually do not think about the future in the way that would  benefit us most

• Expected Utility Theory – designed by John von Neumann and Oskar  Morgenstern

o Designed to maximize getting good outcomes, emphasis on value ▪ Ex.) Trying to maximize calories with food A or food B ???? A has  more calories but is harder to get, B has fewer calories but is  easier to get

• Depending on how much food values vary, people would  either reach for A or settle for B

o Expected value = odds of gain x value of gain

▪ Ex.) Coin game – if it comes up heads, you gain $10; should you  pay $4 to play?

• If you say no ???? keep $4

• If you say yes ???? 50% chance of winning

o Expected value of playing is higher than expected  

value of not playing

▪ Ex.) Dice game – if it comes up 2, you gain $10; should you pay  $4 to play?

• If you say no ???? keep $4

• If you say yes ???? only have 1/6 chance of winning

o Lower probability of winning

▪ Ex.) Lottery – if you pick all 6 numbers, you gain $50 million;  

should you pay $1 to play?

• People still choose to play even though the probability  

of winning is almost 0

o This thinking process occurs in prefrontal cortex of the brain

= x

Expected Value Odds of Gain Value of Gain

   Errors of odds –          Errors of valuation –

error of something how good it will be          

      happening      if it happens

Errors of Odds

• Sample Size Neglect – we forget smaller sample size has more likelihood o Ex.) 45 babies born each day in large hospital, 15 born each day in  small hospital; both hospitals record days on which more than 60% of  newborns were boys ???? which hospital recorded more such days in  2006?

▪ Most people say “they are the same” ???? we ignore that large  

sample size lowers probability

o Law of large numbers – when sample is large, average property of  sample closely resembles the average property of the population  from which it was drawn

• Gambler’s Fallacy – belief that likelihood of a chance event is influenced by  the nature of events that preceded it

o Ex.) Each flip of a coin is independent from flip before ???? very  unlikely to get 10 heads in a row (especially in the beginning) • Conjunction Fallacy – when we assume specific conditions are more  probable than a single general condition

o p(X) > p(X+Y) – probability of 1 thing happening is more likely than  probability of 2 separate things happening

o Ex.) Linda – 31 years old, single, outspoken, very bright, philosophy  major, concerned with discrimination/social justice

▪ People say Linda is more likely to be a “bank teller AND activist  in feminist movement” than just a “bank teller”

o How do we calculate odds?

▪ Ex.) Are you more likely to see a dog or pig on a leash?

• More likely to see dog ???? we see dogs on leashes  

outside almost every day; never see pigs on leashes

▪ We use our experiences to calculate odds

• Availability Bias – things that are easy to bring to mind people assume are  common

o Ex.) Are there more 4-letter English words with R in the 3rd or 1st place?

▪ There are way more words with R in the 3rd place, but people  will say there are more words with R in the 1st place ???? not  

because they are more common, but because they are easier  to bring to mind from memory

o Reason why people overestimate danger of certain things ▪ Ex.) You are more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash  ???? but more people are scared of flying than driving

• When there is a plane crash, there is a lot of news ????

sticks in your memory

▪ Ex.) Lottery is very unlikely to win ???? but people pay money to  draw ticket numbers anyway

• They overestimate chances of winning the lottery  

because lottery winner gets a lot of attention from  


• Planning Fallacy – we underestimate how long something will take to be  complete

o Ex.) Project in school – students were asked to predict how long  project will take in best and worst case scenarios

▪ Actual time it took to complete project was greater than worst  case prediction ???? students underestimated how long it would  take to complete project with all of the small factors that play  a role in completing project

o It’s very easy to bring to mind all the things that will happen for  things to go well

o We don’t take into account all the factors that will derail the project/  we don’t think about worst case scenarios ???? causes us to overweigh  likelihood of things that go well

Errors of Valuation

• Presentism – putting too much weight on present state to predict what you  want in the future

o Ex.) If someone asks to come to a buffet for dinner tomorrow night  ???? response will depend on how hungry you are right now

▪ More likely to say yes if you are hungry

▪ More likely to hesitate if you are full

• How hungry you are right now is not a good predictor of  

what you will want for dinner tomorrow night ???? reason  

why people shouldn’t go grocery shopping when they  

are hungry

o Ex.) If students were asked to choose type of candy they want in class  for the next few weeks

▪ If students were to choose all of the candy in one sitting ???? people will choose more variety of candy

▪ If students chose type of candy week by week ???? they will  almost always choose the same type of candy

o Presentism as a tactic

▪ Ex.) Music store tries to sell you speakers ???? 1 speaker is  “good” but more expensive, other speaker is worse but more  affordable

• You can tell difference of speaker quality in the store  

because of how it’s set up, probably can’t tell difference  

at home ???? good tactic for stores to make more money

• Comparing to the Past – we use past information to guide our future  decisions

o Ex.) Job 1 makes more money overall but income decreases from  year 1 to year 3, job 2 makes less money over all but income  increases from year 1 to year 3

▪ People will choose job 2 because they don’t want money to go  down year after year (even though job 1 makes more money  overall) ???? they compare their income to amount they made in  past years

• Prospect Theory – describes way people choose between probabilistic  alternatives that involve risk, where probabilities of outcomes are known Y-axis: SUBJECTIVE VALUE


o Objective value – factual value ???? x-axis

▪ Ex.) Amount of money, calories, etc.

o Subjective value – varies from person to person ???? y-axis ▪ Ex.) An old necklace that belonged to your grandmother – has  a lot of value to you, may seem worthless to someone else  

who had not relationship with her

▪ People value things in different ways

o Expectations – rational world

▪ If you are completely rational and balanced ???? subjective and  objective values would be the same

▪ Perfectly linear relationship

o Reality – actual human cognition

▪ Curves asymptote – graph curves ???? line is steeper for losses  than gains

• Gain of $10 feels pretty good, loss of $10 may feel way  

worse ???? we care more about losing than gaining  

equivalent amounts of money

• Some differences in value matter more than others

o Ex.) Amount between $50 and $100 seem more  

drastic than $30,000 and $30,050

▪ Endowment effect – losses loom larger than gains

• Ex.) Objective value of an item – $5 ???? valuable to seller,  seller’s offer – $7.12 ???? not valuable to buyer, buyers bid  

– $2.87

• Temporal Discounting – tendency of discounting/devaluing something that  is farther in the future

▪ Ex.) Would you rather have $10 now or $12 in 2 weeks?

• More is better than less – $12 > $10

• Sooner is better than later – $12 now > $12 in 2 weeks

• $12 has more value, but some people may choose to  

rather gain $10 now instead of waiting to gain $12

o Delay of gratification

▪ Ex.) Marshmallow test – length of delay at 4 years of age  correlates with 14 year olds/18 year olds’ SAT scores ???? planning and thinking ahead, resistance to temptation, ability  to cope with frustration, social competence, verbal  


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