About our Research

Young children learn the meanings of thousands of words by the time they can run down the street. The computational problem they solve is daunting: extracting discrete word forms from a sequence of continuous speech signals and mapping these forms onto their meanings. Yet, the same children who solve this problem continuously forget where they left their coats and hats. How do children learn language so quickly despite cognitive constraints on memory, attention, and information processing?

Our work tries to resolve this puzzle by reframing language acquisition as a coordination problem. The problem is not how children learn language, but how parents and children construct it together.



Experimental
Studies

Naturalistic
Observation

Computational
Models


We analyze this coordination by taking an end-to-end approach to understanding early language acquisition, studying it at multiple levels. Our first line of work investigates the representations and algorithms that children and adults bring to the learning problem. Our second line of work investigates the natural ecological contexts in which language acquisition occurs. Finally, our third line of work uses computational models to formalize the interactions between learner and environment. Successes and failures of language learning emerge from the match (or mismatch) between the learning mechanisms available to the child and the structure of the learning environment.


People

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Daniel Yurovsky | Prinicipal Investigator

Email     Website     GitHub

Dan was an undergrad computer science major at Carnegie Mellon before completing a PhD in Cognitive Psychology at Indiana University and doing a postdoc in Psych Department at Stanford. He is broadly interested in how we learn from the people around us, and especially how children learn language. Dan is excited about understanding communication and learning from a systems perspective.

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Ben Morris | Lab Manager

Email

Ben received his master's in Developmental Psychology at the University of Cambridge working with Claire Hughes. Ben has a B.A. in Psychology from Reed College, where he worked with Jennifer Corpus. He is primarily interested optimal word learning strategies and their connection to early cognitive development.

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Maddie Meyers | Research Assistant


Maddie is a second year undergraduate at the University of Chicago, majoring in Comparative Human Development and Psychology. At the Communication and Learning Lab, she studies the use of gesture in relation to early childhood language acquisition.

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Emmi Russo | Research Assistant


Emmi is a third-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago, pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Psychology. She is interested in social-cognitive development and how the processes of cognition, language, and learning interact.

For Parents

Thank you so much for your interest in our research! Families like yours can help us answer questions about how children learn about language.

If you are interested in participating in our research here at the Center for Early Childhood Research at the University of Chicago, please click here to sign up!

You can also reach out to us directly by emailing us or calling 773-834-9769.



How long do studies usually last?

We usually schedule for one hour, however appointments typically last for less than 30 minutes.

What if my child becomes fussy or bored during the study?

Involvement in research is entirely voluntary. Your child can stop at any time.

Will I be with my child during the study?

If you wish, you may stay with your child during the entire study.

Can I bring my other children with me?

Absolutely! We have a comfortable waiting room with plenty of toys to play with!

What if I need to reschedule my appointment?

Please call the Lab at (773) 834-9769 if you need to change or cancel your appointment.

Have more questions?   Email us!


Join our Lab!

We are always looking for motivated, passionate students and researchers to join our team. Please contact us if you have any questions about our work!


Undergraduate Opportunities: The Communication and Learning Lab has openings for undergraduates to gain research experience working as RAs. As a research assistant in CaLLab, you could be involved in research at every step of the process, from developing research questions and creating stimuli to recruiting subjects and testing participants. If you would like to hear more about working as an RA, please contact our lab manager Benjamin Morris (benmorris [at] uchicago [dot] edu).


Interested in graduate study at the University of Chicago? Visit the Psychology Department page for more information on graduate programs offered at the University of Chicago and the application process. Please contact Professor Yurovsky if you are interested in pursuing graduate research in the Communication and Learning Lab.

Contact Us

contact information

  • Monday - Friday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM