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Annie, Naomi & Jeff in Cognitive Science

Fresh in Cognitive Science, "Modeling Statistical Insensitivity: Sources of Suboptimal Behavior," from alumna Annie Gagliardi, with Naomi Feldman and Jeffrey Lidz. The article observes that children learning languages with noun classes (grammatical gender) have ample statistical information available that characterizes the distribution of nouns into these classes, but their use of this information to classify novel nouns differs from the predictions made by an optimal Bayesian classifier. It then uses rational analysis to investigate the hypothesis that children are classifying nouns optimally with respect to a distribution that does not match the surface distribution of statistical features in their input, and finds that the best model imputes a bias to ignore certain features during classification, rather than an inability to encode those features during learning.