Carnegie Mellon University

Erik Thiessen

Erik Thiessen

Director of Undergraduate Studies, Associate Professor of Psychology

  • 342D Baker Hall
  • 412-268-6747

Areas of Expertise

Cognitive Science, Developmental, Learning Science


My research explores learning in infancy and childhood. When we think about the differences between what infants and adults know, it's apparent that infants need to acquire a tremendous amount of information. This is especially apparent in language, where any utterance might present infants with an opportunity to discover auditory regularities such as phonotactic or prosodic patterns, word forms and word meanings, and syntactic regularties about how to combine words. How do infants master all of this complexity? What learning mechanisms are available to infants, and what are the constraints on these mechanisms?

To answer these questions, experiments in the lab focus on how infants can use statistical information about the patterns in the input: information on how one event (such as a particular sound) might predict subsequent effects. Our research indicates that statistical information plays an important role in many aspects of language learning. I am particularly interested in understanding the similarities and differences between learning from linguistic and non-linguistic stimuli, learning by infants and adults, and the characteristics of the input and the prior experiences that might facilitate or impair learning.

Complete List of Publications

Google Scholar Profile

Thiessen, E.D., Kronstein, A.T., & Hufnagle, D.G. (in press). The extraction and integration framework: A two-process account of statistical learning. Psychological Bulletin.

Thiessen, E.D., & Pavlik, P. (2013). iMinerva: A mathematical model of distributional statistical learning. Cognitive Science.

Thiessen, E. D. (2012). Effects of inter- and intra-modal redundancy on infants' rule learning. Language Learning and Development, 8, 197-214.

Thiessen, E.D. (2011). When variability matters more than meaning: The effect of lexical forms on use of phonemic contrasts. Developmental Psychology, 47, 1448-1458.

Thiessen, E.D. (2011). Domain general constraints on statistical learning. Child Development, 82, 462-470.

Thiessen, E. D., & Yee, M. N. (2010). Dogs, Bogs, Labs, and Lads: What phonemic generalizations indicate about the nature of children's early word-form representations. Child Development, 81, 1287-1303.