Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Luca Onnis on 15 April


Speaker: Dr. Luca Onnis

Title: Learn locally, act globally

Date: Wednesday 15 April, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Human learning is subserved by powerful cognitive mechanisms for extracting statistical regularities in the environment. However, not all possible statistical regularities can be computed at any one time, especially by the young developing brain. When several streams of regularities present themselves, which will be learned and which ignored? In this talk I propose that statistical learning proceeds incrementally, using small windows of opportunity in which the relevant relations are those that hold over spatially and/or temporally neighboring objects, sounds, or other events. Results from behavioral experiments and computer models suggest that temporal contiguity and contrast are effective constraints for learning, and that the order of presentation of learning materials can make a significant difference. In addition, the time window can be influenced by the dynamics of attentional focus as guided by social interaction. In interactions with caregivers, the structure to be learned is typically presented redundantly, which fits well working memory constraints of a young learner. In particular, a ubiquitous aspect of parent–child interaction is the use of utterances with partial repetitions that cluster in time (variation sets). I end by sketching an ongoing project, in which we ask whether individual differences in parental use of variation sets predict successful language learning.

About the Speaker:

Luca Onnis directs the LEAP lab ( in the Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies at NTU. His research focuses on basic mechanisms of human learning in both children and adults as they relate to language evolution, acquisition, and processing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar