The Language Development Lab at UNLV

Welcome to the Language Development Lab, located in the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Our research group investigates how humans understand, produce, and learn language. Our work focuses on two broad themes, the learning of the meaning of words and learning how elements are structured in a language. Observational studies may provide some insight into these problems, but it is difficult to control the learning circumstances or the language itself. As such, our work on grammar learning involves tightly controlled language learning studies, where we observe how children and adults acquire structures from sequential input. These studies simulate how children discover the structure of their language when properties of the language can be controlled. Much of our work involves behavioral studies with children and adults. This work is highly interdisciplinary and makes direct ties to work done in Psychology, Linguistics, and Computer Science.

Dr. Wang is accepting applications for PhD students in the 2019-2020 Cycle; he accepts students through the Experimental Psychology program at UNLV.

Felix Wang

Assistant Professor, UNLV

I study how humans acquire a language, and focuses specifically on how they solve two problems: 1) How do learners identify the elements and structures of a language from a linear sequence of sounds? 2) How do they map these elements, and their structure, onto the world so as to identify their meaning? My approach emphasizes how perceptual and conceptual constraints are brought to bear on the learning process, both in identifying distributional patterns within the language and in learning the meanings of these patterns. Methodologically, I build computational models of language acquisition and conduct behavioral experiments with infants, children, and college students.

Starr Sandoval

Lab Manager, Department of Psychology

Starr is a recent graduate of New York University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in linguistics. Her research interests are child language acquisition and its interfaces with syntax and semantics. She plans to eventually pursue a graduate degree with a focus on psycholinguistics. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, travel, and petting her cats.

Jared Leslie

Graduate Student, Department of Psychology

Jared Leslie is a first year graduate student working with Dr. Felix Wang and Dr. Erin Hannon. He has interest in disorders of the brain and neural development. He plays several percussion instruments with his favorite being the Marimba. Outside of school he enjoys hiking, reading, and volunteering with various community service organizations.

Valentina Cruz Valencia

Undergraduate Student, Department of Psychology

Valentina is a senior psychology undergraduate student at UNLV, working on a neuroscience minor and a Spanish minor. She is interested in psychology, interpretation and the public health area. She enjoys art and literature.

Kimberly Wong

Undergraduate Student, Department of Psychology

Kimberly is a freshman majoring in psychology and minoring in Chinese. She is interested in clinical psychology, linguistics, and abnormal behavior. In her free time, she likes to play tennis, go on hikes, go to the beach, and work out.

Aimy Paulsen

Undergraduate Student, Department of Psychology

Aimy is a second-year psychology student. Her research interests pertain to ADHD treatments for children and adolescents, educational psychology, and cognitive development. She would like to attend graduate school to be involved with research in these areas or to become a school counselor. After getting involved with Students Organizing Diversity Activities (SODA) on campus, she has also become interested in research related to diversity and identity. Aimy enjoys drawing, playing the violin, listening to podcasts, and learning new languages.

Elizabeth Rodriguez

Undergraduate Student, Psychology

Elizabeth is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology. She has a huge interest in mental health and wants to become a helpful resource for others. Elizabeth plans to go to graduate school to continue her studies in Counseling Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, exercising, and photography.

Nancy Figueroa

Undergraduate Student, Department of Psychology

Nancy Figueroa is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Criminal Justice. Her interests include neuroscience, developmental psychology, and abnormal psychology. She plans on attending graduate school in the future in order to become a Licensed Clinical Psychologist or a Forensic Psychologist. During her free time, she enjoys playing with her 1-year-old son Axel, listening to different types of music, and watching documentaries about crime or watching psychological thrillers!

Darlyn Magaña

Undergraduate Student, Department of Psychology

Darlyn is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience and Spanish. She is interested in Clinical and Developmental Psychology. She wants to be able to analyze the behaviors of children with a psychological disorder to find a way to bring more awareness to the disorders. She plans to attend graduate school to continue studying psychology and ultimately become a Spanish speaking Child Clinical Psychologist. Besides studying psychology, Darlyn enjoys spending time with her parents, two sisters, friends, drinking Starbucks Mango Dragonfruit Refreshers and baking sweet treats.

Publications

Please click on the title of the paper to download the pdf below.

Wang, F. H., & Trueswell, J. C. (2019). Spotting Dalmatians: Children’s ability to discover subordinate-level word meanings cross-situationally. Cognitive Psychology, 114, 101226.

Wang, F. H., Zevin, J., & Mintz, T. H. (2019). Successfully Learning Non-Adjacent Dependencies in a Continuous Artificial Language Stream. Cognitive Psychology, 113, 101223.

Wang, F. H., Hutton, E., & Zevin, J. (2019). Statistical Learning of Unfamiliar Sounds as Trajectories through a Perceptual Similarity Space. Cognitive Science, 43(8), e12740.

Wang, F. H. & Mintz, T. H. (2018). Learning Non-Adjacent Dependencies Embedded in Sentences of an Artificial Language: When Learning Breaks Down. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 44(4), 604.

Wang, F. H. & Mintz, T. (2018). The Role of Reference in Cross-Situational Word Learning. Cognition, 170, 64-75.

Wang, F. H., Zevin, J., & Mintz, T. H. (2017). Top-Down Structure Influences Learning of Non-Adjacent Dependencies in an Artificial Language. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(12), 1738. Data and the auditory stimuli are available here.

Wang, F. H. & Mintz, T. H. (2016). Language acquisition is model-based rather than model-free. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39.

Mintz, T. H., Wang, F. H., & Li, J. (2014). Word categorization from distributional information: Frames confer more than the sum of their (Bigram) parts. Cognitive psychology, 75, 1-27.

Electronic versions are provided as a professional courtesy to ensure timely dissemination of academic work for individual, noncommercial purposes. Copyright and all rights therein reside with the respective copyright holders.

Parents

Thank you so much for your interest in our research! Families like yours can help us answer questions about how children learn about language. If you are interested in participating in our research here at the Language Development Lab at the UNLV, please reach out to us directly by emailing us or calling 702-895-0203.

How long do studies usually last?

We usually schedule for half an hour, however studies typically last for less than 20 minutes.

What if my child becomes fussy or bored during the study?

Involvement in research is entirely voluntary. Your child can stop at any time.

Can I bring a sibling along?

Yes! Infants, toddlers and young children enjoy our playroom and the research assistants who take care of them while you are engaged in a study with another child.

I recently had a baby. Is my newborn too young to participate?

We love babies! Even tiny newborns can tell us a lot about language and cognitive development. We have many opportunities for infants as young as 3 months of age. We hope you’ll sign up soon!

Who will we meet during our studies?

You’ll be interacting with trained child development researchers. Our team includes doctoral (PhD) students and experienced UNLV undergraduate students. We are committed to mentoring the next generation of developmental scientists!

What will my child do during the study?

Your child will help us learn how children learn! In a play session with a trained child development researcher, children usually play with toys, look at pictures or books, or watch a short video. You’re with your child the whole time. With your permission, we’ll record how long your child looks at, plays with, or talks about things we show them.

Do you evaluate my child’s language or cognitive development?

No, we do not evaluate or ‘score’ your child. We look for trends across groups of children at roughly the same ages. If you are concerned about your child’s speech, language or cognitive development, please contact the Pediatrics Department at the Children's Hospital of Nevada at 702-383-3939.

What if I need to reschedule my appointment?

Please call the Lab at 702-895-0203 if you need to change or cancel your appointment.

Have more questions? Please call or email us!

Join our Lab!

We are always looking for motivated, passionate students and researchers to join our team. Please contact us if you have any questions about our work!

Undergraduate Opportunities: The Language Development Lab has openings for undergraduates to gain research experience working as RAs. As a research assistant, you could be involved in research at every step of the process, from developing research questions and creating stimuli to recruiting subjects and testing participants. If you would like to hear more about working as an RA, please email us.

Interested in graduate study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas? Visit the Psychology Department page for more information on graduate programs offered at the UNLV and the application process. Please contact Professor Wang if you are interested in pursuing graduate research in the Language Development Lab.

  • Address

    University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    4505 S. Maryland Pkwy.
    Las Vegas, NV 89154
  • Email

    unlv.langdev@gmail.com
  • Phone

    702-895-0203