Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Eliana Colunga

Abstract

Children use all of the sources of information available to them to acquire names for novel word referents (Markman & Wachtel, 1988; Horst, Scott, & Pollard, 2010). When children first begin learning novel words, they primarily do so through the novel-noun-nameless category (N3C) principle, where they attach a novel name to a novel object based on their unfamiliarity. However, as children age, their skills become more refined and complex, and children become capable of using their previous word learning knowledge and increased vocabulary to help them infer the meanings of novel words among other possible word referents (Zosh, Brinster, & Halberda, 2013). Children additionally learn through comparison and through the labeling of multiple novel objects that are the same, which establishes commonalities and differences among objects that highlight the specific features of a target object among other possible referents or competing objects (Graham, Namy, Genter, & Meagher 2010). This study evaluates how two different linguistic cues help direct children’s attention toward novel features in the presence of competing objects. The results suggest that children are best able to learn the target features of an object, when presented in a simplistic word learning environment, if their attention is verbally guided only to the target features and not to the competing objects.

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