Jenny Saffran, PhD – Slide of the Week

Saffran Slide of the Week 2018

Title: Familiar Object Salience Affects Novel Word Learning

Legend: Results of a study in which 3-year-olds heard the names for novel objects (“Find the Pifo” or “Find the Tever”). Each novel object was paired with a familiar object. Some of the familiar objects were interesting and brightly colored (high salience condition) while other familiar objects were boring and dull colored (low salience condition). Children were faster and more accurate at fixating the novel object when it was paired with a boring familiar object than when it was paired with an interesting familiar object.

Citation: Pomper R, Saffran JR (2018) Familiar object salience affects novel word learning. (2018). Child Development. In Press.

Abstract: Children use the presence of familiar objects with known names to identify the correct referents of novel words. In natural environments, objects vary widely in salience. The presence of familiar objects may sometimes hinder rather than help word learning. To test this hypothesis, 3-year-olds (N = 36) were shown novel objects paired with familiar objects that varied in their visual salience. When the novel objects were labeled, children were slower and less accurate at fixating them in the presence of highly salient familiar objects than in the presence of less salient familiar objects. They were also less successful in retaining these word-referent pairings. While familiar objects may facilitate novel word learning in ambiguous situations, the properties of familiar objects matter.

About the Lab:  In the Infant Learning Lab, we study how infants discover the structure of their environment, especially language.

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