Associative Processes

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  • Associative learning is a fundamental learning mechanism humans share with other species. The process of associative learning entails linking aspects of the environment that reliably predict one another. This general learning mechanism has been well captured by the Rescorla-Wagner model, in which cues are associated with outcomes to the degree that they reduce uncertainty about the outcome. Human languages consist of many predictive patterns that are encoded as statistical regularities in language input, and infants, children, and adults are highly sensitive to these cues to language structure. Associative learning plays a role in many aspects of language learning—from perceiving where words begin and end in fluent speech (word segmentation), to learning word meanings, to forming categories of words and inferring rules for how words are ...

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