Sometimes it is better to know less: How known words influence referent selection and retention in 18 to 24-month-old children

Kucker, Sarah C., McMurray, Bob and Samuelson, Larissa K. (2020) Sometimes it is better to know less: How known words influence referent selection and retention in 18 to 24-month-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 189. ISSN 0022-0965

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Abstract

Young children are surprisingly good word learners. Despite their relative lack of world knowledge and limited vocabularies, they consistently map novel words to novel referents and, at later ages, show retention of these new word–referent pairs. Prior work has implicated the use of mutual exclusivity constraints and novelty biases, which require that children use knowledge of well-known words to disambiguate uncertain naming situations. The current study, however, presents evidence that weaker vocabulary knowledge during the initial exposure to a new word may be better for retention of new mappings. Children aged 18–24 months selected referents for novel words in the context of foil stimuli that varied in their lexical strength and novelty: well-known items (e.g., shoe), just-learned weakly known items (e.g., wif), and completely novel items. Referent selection performance was significantly reduced on trials with weakly known foil items. Surprisingly, however, children subsequently showed above-chance retention for novel words mapped in the context of weakly known competitors compared with those mapped with strongly known competitors or with completely novel competitors. We discuss implications for our understanding of word learning constraints and how children use known words and novelty during word learning.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Uncontrolled Keywords: word learning,fast mapping,lexicon,novelty,toddlers
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2019 15:32
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2020 00:41
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/72057
DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2019.104705

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