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SCSB Lunch Series: Child-directed listening: How adults understand what young children say

February 24, 2023 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Date: Friday, February 24, 2023
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Location: SCSB Conference room 46-6011 + Zoom Meeting (https://mit.zoom.us/j/91754454830)

Speaker: Stephan Meylan, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Computational Psycholinguistics Lab

Talk title: Child-directed listening: How adults understand what young children say

Abstract: Research on child language acquisition has traditionally focused on children’s cognitive processes. However, early communication and coordination also depends on the cognitive processes of adult caregivers, as they must infer what children are trying to communicate even when children’s early speech differs substantially from adult speech. In this talk, I will show how a suite of hybrid Bayesian / neural network models of spoken word recognition can help us understand how adults do this. These models reveal that adults rely minimally on the acoustic signal produced by children, and instead heavily depend on prior beliefs about what children are likely to say, along with contextual cues. I’ll show some of the differences between adult word recognition of the speech of typically-developing children and the one child in the sample with an ASD diagnosis; finally, I’ll conclude by discussing the consequences of positing an inferentially-powerful adult listener for theories of first language acquisition.


February 24, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Event Category:


Simons Center Conference Room, Bldg. 46, Room 6011
43 Vassar Street
Cambridge, MA 02139 United States
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Simons Center for the Social Brain