A bottom-up view of toddler word learning

Abstract

A head camera was used to examine the visual correlates of object name learning by toddlers as they played with novel objects and as the parent spontaneously named those objects. The toddlers’ learning of the object names was tested after play, and the visual properties of the head camera images during naming events associated with learned and unlearned object names were analyzed. Naming events associated with learning had a clear visual signature, one in which the visual information itself was clean and visual competition among objects was minimized. Moreover, for learned object names, the visual advantage of the named target over competitors was sustained, both before and after the heard name. The findings are discussed in terms of the visual and cognitive processes that may depend on clean sensory input for learning and also on the sensory–motor, cognitive, and social processes that may create these optimal visual moments for learning.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Charlotte Wozniak, Amanda Favata, Amara Stuehling, and Andrew Filipowicz for collection of the data and Thomas Smith for developing data management and preprocessing software. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant 0924248, AFOSR FA9550-09-1-0665, NICHHD grant R01HD 28675, and Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science Postdoctoral fellowship SFRH/BPD/70122/2010 awarded to Alfredo F. Pereira.

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Correspondence to Alfredo F. Pereira.

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Pereira, A.F., Smith, L.B. & Yu, C. A bottom-up view of toddler word learning. Psychon Bull Rev 21, 178–185 (2014). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-013-0466-4

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Keywords

  • Visual attention
  • Language comprehension
  • Word recognition