Language experience shapes the development of the mutual exclusivity bias
Houston-Price, C., Caloghiris, Z. and Raviglione, E. (2010) Language experience shapes the development of the mutual exclusivity bias. Infancy, 15 (2). pp. 125-150. ISSN 1525-0008
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-7078.2009.00009.x
Halberda (2003) demonstrated that 17-month-old infants, but not 14- or 16-month-olds, use a strategy known as mutual exclusivity (ME) to identify the meanings of new words. When 17-month-olds were presented with a novel word in an intermodal preferential looking task, they preferentially fixated a novel object over an object for which they already had a name. We explored whether the development of this word-learning strategy is driven by children's experience of hearing only one name for each referent in their environment by comparing the behavior of infants from monolingual and bilingual homes. Monolingual infants aged 17–22 months showed clear evidence of using an ME strategy, in that they preferentially fixated the novel object when they were asked to "look at the dax." Bilingual infants of the same age and vocabulary size failed to show a similar pattern of behavior. We suggest that children who are raised with more than one language fail to develop an ME strategy in parallel with monolingual infants because development of the bias is a consequence of the monolingual child's everyday experiences with words.