The MetaLab challenge calling for meta-analyses on cognitive development, with support from Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), has closed. We received data for 7 meta-analyses, which will be added to MetaLab in the coming months.
Angeline Tsui contributed data on a meta-analysis of the “Switch Task”, a key paradigm in language acquisition research. In a switch task infants are taught new labels for unknown objects (such as “lif” vs “neem”). Their knowledge is then tested by whether they can detect the switching of the word-object pairings (calling the “lif” now “neem”). Results from switch task studies raised the possibility that there are differences in infants’ abilities to distinguish speech sounds in a pure speech perception task (where no visual information-giving cues to the referent is presented) versus in a word learning context, and led to a string of follow-up studies that are synthesized in this meta-analysis. Angeline’s paper describing the meta-analysis in more detail is currently under review in Developmental Psychology (Preprint).
Julia Carbajal conducted a meta-analysis on infants’ ability to distinguish frequent words from rare words (like “hello” versus “hallux”) when these words are just presented via a speech stream without visual referents. In this type of study, researchers typically compare how long infants like to listen to different word lists (one with very frequent and one with very rare words), which is an easy-to-apply but very indirect measure. Studies on infants’ ability to distinguish those word lists were the first to establish when infants begin to systematically learn words in their native language, albeit with varying results across studies. It was thus a good moment to estimate the meta-analytic effect size. The paper on this meta-analysis is currently in preparation.
Katie Von Holzen’s meta-analysis (conducted in collaboration with MetaLab team member Christina Bergmann, which led to 50% of her data being discounted) addresses infants’ sensitivity to mispronunciations (for example, whether “tog” is a good label for “dog”). Dealing with mispronunciations is another key skill in language acquisition and processing, and the meta-analysis aims to show whether infants become more strict or more lenient with experience as to how a word should sound. A short report on the meta-analysis appeared in the Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society Conference 2018 and a full-length paper is in preparation.
We would also like to specifically highlight the contribution of Hugh Rabagliati, Brock Ferguson, and Casey Lew-Williams, who would have been among the winners based on their contribution, but generously stepped down to leave the prize for an early career researcher. The meta-analysis they contributed addresses how infants can learn rules that are implicit in their environment. Their open access paper just appeared in the journal Developmental Science (Rabagliati, H., Ferguson, B., & Lew-Williams, C. (2018). “The profile of abstract rule learning in infancy: Meta-analytic and experimental evidence”. Developmental Science).
Thank you to everyone who participated in our challenge! MetaLab continues to be open for submissions, we provide further information on the Tutorials page.