Predict and redirect: Prediction errors support children's word learning

Tracy Reuter, Arielle Borovsky, Casey Lew-Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


According to prediction-based learning theories, erroneous predictions support learning. However, empirical evidence for a relation between prediction error and children's language learning is currently lacking. Here we investigated whether and how prediction errors influence children's learning of novel words. We hypothesized that word learning would vary as a function of 2 factors: the extent to which children generate predictions, and the extent to which children redirect attention in response to errors. Children were tested in a novel word learning task, which used eye tracking to measure (a) real-time semantic predictions to familiar referents, (b) attention redirection following prediction errors, and (c) learning of novel referents. Results indicated that predictions and prediction errors interdependently supported novel word learning, via children's efficient redirection of attention. This study provides a developmental evaluation of prediction-based theories and suggests that erroneous predictions play a mechanistic role in children's language learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1656-1665
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


  • Attention
  • Language learning
  • Language processing
  • Prediction
  • Prediction error


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