Frequency effects in Linear Discriminative Learning

19 Jun 2023  ·  Maria Heitmeier, Yu-Ying Chuang, Seth D. Axen, R. Harald Baayen ·

Word frequency is a strong predictor in most lexical processing tasks. Thus, any model of word recognition needs to account for how word frequency effects arise. The Discriminative Lexicon Model (DLM; Baayen et al., 2018a, 2019) models lexical processing with linear mappings between words' forms and their meanings. So far, the mappings can either be obtained incrementally via error-driven learning, a computationally expensive process able to capture frequency effects, or in an efficient, but frequency-agnostic solution modelling the theoretical endstate of learning (EL) where all words are learned optimally. In this study we show how an efficient, yet frequency-informed mapping between form and meaning can be obtained (Frequency-informed learning; FIL). We find that FIL well approximates an incremental solution while being computationally much cheaper. FIL shows a relatively low type- and high token-accuracy, demonstrating that the model is able to process most word tokens encountered by speakers in daily life correctly. We use FIL to model reaction times in the Dutch Lexicon Project (Keuleers et al., 2010) and find that FIL predicts well the S-shaped relationship between frequency and the mean of reaction times but underestimates the variance of reaction times for low frequency words. FIL is also better able to account for priming effects in an auditory lexical decision task in Mandarin Chinese (Lee, 2007), compared to EL. Finally, we used ordered data from CHILDES (Brown, 1973; Demuth et al., 2006) to compare mappings obtained with FIL and incremental learning. The mappings are highly correlated, but with FIL some nuances based on word ordering effects are lost. Our results show how frequency effects in a learning model can be simulated efficiently, and raise questions about how to best account for low-frequency words in cognitive models.

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