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Word Learning in a Domestic Dog: Evidence for "Fast Mapping"

Science  11 Jun 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5677, pp. 1682-1683
DOI: 10.1126/science.1097859

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Abstract

During speech acquisition, children form quick and rough hypotheses about the meaning of a new word after only a single exposure—a process dubbed “fast mapping.” Here we provide evidence that a border collie, Rico, is able to fast map. Rico knew the labels of over 200 different items. He inferred the names of novel items by exclusion learning and correctly retrieved those items right away as well as 4 weeks after the initial exposure. Fast mapping thus appears to be mediated by general learning and memory mechanisms also found in other animals and not by a language acquisition device that is special to humans.

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