Vol. 10, No. 5
Rapid Word Learning by 15-Month-Olds under Tightly Controlled Conditions
Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University
Infants (12.9 m to 16.8 m) were taught two novel words for two images of novel objects. Learning took place by pairing presentations of the to-be-learned auditory label with presentations of the to-be-associated image. This was followed by a period of testing using the preferential looking task in which the subject was presented with a pair of images, and an auditory stimulus. Infants took longer looks at an image if it matched the auditory stimulus than if the auditory stimulus matched the other image, or matched neither image. The design of the experiment controlled for a variety of possible confounds including pragmatic factors, contrastivity, naming effect, object and word familiarity, visual salience, side preference, auditory and phonological features of the stimulus. Subjects showed some learning after six presentations of the auditory label, and learned to distinguish between the two labels after twelve presentations. These results are discussed in the light of previous attempts to teach young children novel words, and with respect to the utility of the preferential looking task for the study of early word learning.