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The learnability consequences of Zipfian distributions in language

24 April, 2022
The learnability consequences of Zipfian distributions in language

While the languages of the world differ in many respects, they share certain commonalties, which can provide insight on our shared cognition. In a new study Prof. Inbal Arnon and Dr. Ori Lavi-Rotbain explore the learnability consequences of one of the striking commonalities between languages.

Across languages, word frequencies follow a Zipfian distribution, showing a power law relation between a word's frequency and its rank. While their source in language has been studied extensively, less work has explored the learnability consequences of such distributions for language learners. this study proposes that the greater predictability of words in this distribution (relative to less skewed distributions) can facilitate word segmentation, a crucial aspect of early language acquisition. To explore this, we quantify word predictability using unigram entropy, assess it across languages using naturalistic corpora of child-directed speech and then ask whether similar unigram predictability facilitates word segmentation in the lab. We find similar unigram entropy in child-directed speech across 15 languages. We then use an auditory word segmentation task to show that the unigram predictability levels found in natural language are uniquely facilitative for word segmentation for both children and adults. These findings illustrate the facilitative impact of skewed input distributions on learning and raise questions about the possible role of cognitive pressures in the prevalence of Zipfian distributions in language.

See full article here 

Bio-behavioral synchrony is a potential mechanism for mate selection in humans

14 April, 2022
Bio-behavioral synchrony is a potential mechanism for mate selection in humans

Why are we attracted to some people and not to others?

A new study finds that when a man and a woman synchronize their physiology and dynamically tune their behavior to one another during a first date, they are romantically and sexually attracted to one another.

Dyadic synchrony and attunement are dynamic temporal phenomena, which reflect how two people can co-regulate each-other's physiology and behavior. Co-regulation in close bonds is adaptive because it can contribute to regulatory stability for both partners, and can thus promote health and well-being. Thus, both physiological synchrony and behavioral attunement with a potential romantic partner could serve as indicators for successful bonding and thus promote initial sexual and romantic attraction.

The research was conducted in the Bonding Neuroscience Lab by Lior Zeevi, Nathalie klein-Sellle, Yuval Hart and Shir Atzil.

See full article here https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-08582-6

Are there positive effects of having a sibling with special needs? Empathy and prosociality of twins of children with non-typical development

6 April, 2022
YONAT EUM

A new study in Child Development examined whether typically developing (TD) twins of non-TD children demonstrate enhanced empathy and prosociality. Of 778 Hebrew-speaking Israeli families who participated in a twin study, 63 were identified to have a non-TD child with a TD twin, and 404 as having both twins TD. TD twins of non-TD children (27% males) were compared to the rest of the cohort of TD children (46% males) on measures of empathy and prosociality. Participants were 11 years old. TD twins of non-TD children scored significantly higher than TD twins of TD children in a measure of cognitive empathy (d = .43). No differences were found in emotional empathy and prosociality. The specificity of the positive effect on cognitive empathy is discussed.

see full article here

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