Trust and pragmatics in language learning and evolution
When researchers investigate about the assumptions and biases that shape language acquisition and evolution, they are often referring to cognitive or language-specific biases that arise out of memory, attention, or domain-specific knowledge. Here I consider the ways in which the social assumptions people make can shape both what they learn and the ultimate shape of the language that evolves over time. Using a combination of computational models and experiments with adults, I demonstrate that people make different linguistic inferences based on the same data depending on their beliefs about the goals, knowledge, and trustworthiness of their interlocutor. When repeated over populations of people, this can change the shape of what evolves.
Associate Professor Amy Perfors, Deputy Director, Complex Human Data Hub, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences