Infants generalize from just (the right) four words

Lou Ann Gerken, Sara Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Infants in the lab can generalize from 2. min of language-like input. Given that infants might fail to fully encode so much input, how many examples do they actually need? And if infants only encode a subset of their input at one time, does generalization change when that subset supports multiple generalizations? Exp. 1 asked whether 11-month-olds generalize the relation between two consonants in a word when just four input words provided non-conflicting vs. partially conflicting support for a phonological feature-based generalization. Infants learned under both conditions, although the latter appears to be more difficult. Exp. 2 asked whether infants' robust learning reflects a bias toward feature-based generalizations. Infants failed to generalize when input provided completely conflicting support for two generalizations. Together, the data suggest that infants are able to generalize from much less input than previously observed, but generalization depends on the specific subset of the input they encounter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-192
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Generalization
  • Language development
  • Learning bias
  • Phonological feature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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