What’s the difference between a statistician and a baby?

Answer: Nothing?

Here’s another TED Talk link (so many good, short ones)! Much of the current work in our lab is devoted to understanding how people learn about the statistical patterns in their environment. One of the core issues we debate is how people figure out the “breaking points” in their input that form different categories of items (be that speech sounds, categories of objects in the world, etc…). For example, how much evidence does one need to decided there are two categories of R/L sounds in your language or just one? The TED talk by Patricia Kuhl linked below provides a really nice developmental perspective on this issue. The experiments she describes show how young children acquire the phonemic distinctions relevant to their language. It’s amazing data and really highlights how our experience shapes how we interpret the world. In addition, work by Kuhl (and many others) is forcing us to rethink the sophistication of young learners (i.e., babies). Here’s a paper from our lab that is particularly relevant to her talk (presenting a computational/mathematical theories of how learners might acquire distinctions, like the japanese/english R/L distinction Kuhl discusses in her work) through learning.