Request for Exempt Review

Project Title:Learning the Meaning of Verbs
Investigator:Sourabh Niyogi ( 35-419, x3-7255
Faculty Supervisor:Prof. Robert Berwick ( 35-423
Anticipated Dates of Research:12/01/2001 - 03/30/2002

Purpose: Test how adult learners generalize to different verb-concepts from a small number of stimulus-utterance pairs
Procedure: 50 adult subjects from the MIT community will perform a psycholinguistic experiment at a location of their choosing within the MIT campus. Each subject, in the experimenter's presence, will use a computer to access a URL ( which explains the task and requests their informed consent.

In accordance with MIT's COUHES, this URL explains:
  • Subjects participation is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time without prejudice
  • Subjects can decline answering any question
  • Subjects can ask the experimenter questions at any time
  • All information collected will be anonymous and confidential and will protect the identity of all participants
  • The length of the experiment will be approximately 30 minutes
  • In the unlikely event of an injury, subjects are told their medical and legal options, taken verbatim from the COUHES web site.
Upon obtaining their informed consent in writing, the experiment will begin. Subjects will use the URL to access up to 20 MPEG stimuli over the web. Stimuli will be viewed at normal viewing distance. Each stimuli will be approximately 60-90 seconds long, and consist of 4 training stimuli of 1 or more persons interacting with 1 or more ordinary objects (table, balloon, box, pot, etc.) and 3 similar test stimuli. Superimposed of the training stimuli are audio clips of short English sentences (e.g. "He is gorping the balloon") containing a novel verb (e.g. "gorping"). Superimposed over the test stimuli are Yes-No. Subjects will be requested to view each of the stimuli and record their Yes-No responses written down on answer sheet provided to subject (a printed version of web page).
No audiotaping or videotaping will be used. All consent forms and data will be secured by the principal investigator.