"Rule learning by seven-month-old infants"

G. F. Marcus, S. Vijayan, S. Bandi Rao
New York University

P. M. Vishton
Amherst College

Science, January 1, 1999, Volume 283, Page 77 - 80


A fundamental task of language acquisition is to extract abstract "algebraic" rules. Three experiments show that 7-month-old infants attend longer to sentences with unfamiliar structures than to sentences with familiar structures. The design of the artificial language task used in these experiments ensured that this discrimination could not be performed by counting, by a system that is sensitive only to transitional probabilities, or by a popular class of simple neural network models. Instead, these results suggest that infants can represent, extract, and generalize abstract algebraic rules.


Sample Sounds

After you listen to this
Familiarization (30 second excerpt)

Can you tell which test trial
has the same structure?

The full text of this article, and a Perspective by Steven Pinker, can be ordered through Science On-Line.

For discussion, click here.

New York University | Psychology at NYU | Gary F. Marcus