The infant’s view redefines the problem of referential uncertainty in early word learning

Yu, Chen, Zhang, Yayun, Slone, Lauren K. and Smith, Linda B. (2021) The infant’s view redefines the problem of referential uncertainty in early word learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118 (52). ISSN 0027-8424

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The learning of first object names is deemed a hard problem due to the uncertainty inherent in mapping a heard name to the intended referent in a cluttered and variable world. However, human infants readily solve this problem. Despite considerable theoretical discussion, relatively little is known about the uncertainty infants face in the real world. We used head-mounted eye tracking during parent–infant toy play and quantified the uncertainty by measuring the distribution of infant attention to the potential referents when a parent named both familiar and unfamiliar toy objects. The results show that infant gaze upon hearing an object name is often directed to a single referent which is equally likely to be a wrong competitor or the intended target. This bimodal gaze distribution clarifies and redefines the uncertainty problem and constrains possible solutions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data Availability: The coded data analyzed for this paper have been deposited in the OSF ( Raw video data are not publicly available because they contain information that could compromise the privacy of research participants (e.g., young children and their families). Questions may be directed to the corresponding author or to C.Y. Acknowledgements: The authors thank Steven Elmlinger, Seth Foster, Daniel Pearcy, and Charlene Tay for collection of the data; Seth Foster and Tian (Linger) Xu for developing data management and processing software; and Tian Xu, Drew Abney, Catalina Suarez, Sara Schroer, Julia Yurkovic-Harding, and Sven Bambach for fruitful discussions. This work was funded by NIH Grants R01HD074601 and R01HD093792, NSF Grant BCS-1842817, and Indiana University’s Emerging Area of Research Initiative.
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Developmental Science
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2021 16:30
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 01:19
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2107019118

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