Spatial Cognition and Computation

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 1–29 | Cite as

Perception, object kind, and object naming

  • Barbara Landau
  • Michael Leyton


We investigated whether certain perceptual properties of objects could support children's and adults' judgments of the range of shape changes permissible for a named object. Three year-olds and adults saw a line drawing of a novel object and heard it named using a count noun (e.g., “This is a dax.”). Then they judged whether shape or size changes of the original could also be called by the same name (i.e., “Is this a dax?”). Children and adults extended the object name to the size changes. In contrast, extension to shape changes strongly depended on the particular characteristics of the objects. Objects with straight edges and sharp corners elicited very low generalization to shape changes, consistent with a “shape bias”. Objects with curved edges, curved and wrinkled edges, and curved and wrinkled edges plus “eyes” elicited increasingly broad generalization to the same shape changes. In a comparable No-Word task, children's and adults' judgments were similar across all different object types. The difference in generalization patterns over the two tasks suggests that only naming systematically engaged representations of the objects that could support inferences about their potential for shape change. The results are discussed in terms of the complex interactions of perception, ontology, and labelling in the development of object naming.

count noun lexical learning naming object shape 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Landau
    • 1
  • Michael Leyton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DelawareThe Netherlands

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