What's in a name? Lexical knowledge drives infants' visual preferences in the absence of referential input
Schafer, G., Plunkett, K. and Harris, P. L. (1999) What's in a name? Lexical knowledge drives infants' visual preferences in the absence of referential input. Developmental Science, 2 (2). pp. 187-194. ISSN 1363-755X
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/1467-7687.00067
Seventeen-month-old infants were presented with pairs of images, in silence or with the non-directive auditory stimulus 'look!'. The images had been chosen so that one image depicted an item whose name was known to the infant, and the other image depicted an image whose name was not known to the infant. Infants looked longer at images for which they had names than at images for which they did not have names, despite the absence of any referential input. The experiment controlled for the familiarity of the objects depicted: in each trial, image pairs presented to infants had previously been judged by caregivers to be of roughly equal familiarity. From a theoretical perspective, the results indicate that objects with names are of intrinsic interest to the infant. The possible causal direction for this linkage is discussed and it is concluded that the results are consistent with Whorfian linguistic determinism, although other construals are possible. From a methodological perspective, the results have implications for the use of preferential looking as an index of early word comprehension.