Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Lauren Slone, Psychology

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Language acquisition begins with learning names of common objects by discovering the link between the word and the object. Yet even this is difficult because many objects are often in view when an object's name is spoken. Research shows that children hold objects close to their faces, making them larger in view than other objects, which we call "visual dominance". Infants learn names of objects better when the object named is visually dominant (Yu & Smith, 2012). We want to test if visual dominance aids word learning even when objects are not being held. We will test this by displaying images of novel objects on a screen and testing whether adults learn their novel names. In 80 training trials, we presented images of three objects at a time, and named one object. For participants in the Dominant condition, the named object ("target") was always larger than the non-named objects ("distractors") and for participants in the Equal condition, the target was equal in size to the non-named objects. We hypothesize that adults will look faster and more often to target objects in the Dominant condition. Additionally, we hypothesize that greater looking to the target object will aid in learning the target's names. We examined object name learning based on which object they looked at and/or pointed toward when asked "where is the [novel name of the object]?" at the end of the study. Preliminary data from 34 undergraduates supports our first hypothesis that participants in the Dominant condition looked more to the target object than the distractors during training trials. Future analyses will investigate whether participants learned more words in the Dominant condition, and how their looking during training relates to their word learning.

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