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A model of the Headturn Preference Procedure: Linking cognitive processes to overt behaviour


Bergmann,  Christina
Centre for Language Studies • Radboud University Nijmegen;
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Bergmann, C., Boves, L., & Ten Bosch, L. (2012). A model of the Headturn Preference Procedure: Linking cognitive processes to overt behaviour. In Proceedings of the 2012 IEEE Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics (IEEE ICDL-EpiRob 2012), San Diego, CA.

The study of first language acquisition still strongly relies on behavioural methods to measure underlying linguistic abilities. In the present paper, we closely examine and model one such method, the headturn preference procedure (HPP), which is widely used to measure infant speech segmentation and word recognition abilities Our model takes real speech as input, and only uses basic sensory processing and cognitive capabilities to simulate observable behaviour.We show that the familiarity effect found in many HPP experiments can be simulated without using the phonetic and phonological skills necessary for segmenting test sentences into words. The explicit modelling of the process that converts the result of the cognitive processing of the test sentences into observable behaviour uncovered two issues that can lead to null-results in HPP studies. Our simulations show that caution is needed in making inferences about underlying language skills from behaviour in HPP experiments. The simulations also generated questions that must be addressed in future HPP studies.