All Publications

  • Real-time lexical comprehension in young children learning American Sign Language. Developmental science MacDonald, K., LaMarr, T., Corina, D., Marchman, V. A., Fernald, A. 2018: e12672


    When children interpret spoken language in real time, linguistic information drives rapid shifts in visual attention to objects in the visual world. This language-vision interaction can provide insights into children's developing efficiency in language comprehension. But how does language influence visual attention when the linguistic signal and the visual world are both processed via the visual channel? Here, we measured eye movements during real-time comprehension of a visual-manual language, American Sign Language (ASL), by 29 native ASL-learning children (16-53 mos, 16 deaf, 13 hearing) and 16 fluent deaf adult signers. All signers showed evidence of rapid, incremental language comprehension, tending to initiate an eye movement before sign offset. Deaf and hearing ASL-learners showed similar gaze patterns, suggesting that the in-the-moment dynamics of eye movements during ASL processing are shaped by the constraints of processing a visual language in real time and not by differential access to auditory information in day-to-day life. Finally, variation in children's ASL processing was positively correlated with age and vocabulary size. Thus, despite competition for attention within a single modality, the timing and accuracy of visual fixations during ASL comprehension reflect information processing skills that are important for language acquisition regardless of language modality.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.12672

    View details for PubMedID 29659103

  • Social cues modulate the representations underlying cross situational learning COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY MacDonald, K., Yurovsky, D., Frank, M. C. 2017; 94: 67-84


    Because children hear language in environments that contain many things to talk about, learning the meaning of even the simplest word requires making inferences under uncertainty. A cross-situational statistical learner can aggregate across naming events to form stable word-referent mappings, but this approach neglects an important source of information that can reduce referential uncertainty: social cues from speakers (e.g., eye gaze). In four large-scale experiments with adults, we tested the effects of varying referential uncertainty in cross-situational word learning using social cues. Social cues shifted learners away from tracking multiple hypotheses and towards storing only a single hypothesis (Experiments 1 and 2). In addition, learners were sensitive to graded changes in the strength of a social cue, and when it became less reliable, they were more likely to store multiple hypotheses (Experiment 3). Finally, learners stored fewer word-referent mappings in the presence of a social cue even when given the opportunity to visually inspect the objects for the same amount of time (Experiment 4). Taken together, our data suggest that the representations underlying cross-situational word learning of concrete object labels are quite flexible: In conditions of greater uncertainty, learners store a broader range of information.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.02.003

    View details for Web of Science ID 000400232400004

    View details for PubMedID 28288392

  • My people, right or wrong? Minimal group membership disrupts preschoolers' selective trust COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT Macdonald, K., Schug, M., Chase, E., Barth, H. 2013; 28 (3): 247-259