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Keywords:

  • Cross-situational word learning;
  • Statistical learning;
  • Word learning;
  • Language development;
  • Memory and learning;
  • Retrieval dynamics;
  • Retrieval effort hypothesis

Abstract

Previous research on cross-situational word learning has demonstrated that learners are able to reduce ambiguity in mapping words to referents by tracking co-occurrence probabilities across learning events. In the current experiments, we examined whether learners are able to retain mappings over time. The results revealed that learners are able to retain mappings for up to 1 week later. However, there were interactions between the amount of retention and the different learning conditions. Interestingly, the strongest retention was associated with a learning condition that engendered retrieval dynamics that initially challenged the learner but eventually led to more successful retrieval toward the end of learning. The ease/difficulty of retrieval is a critical process underlying cross-situational word learning and is a powerful example of how learning dynamics affect long-term learning outcomes.