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Thirteen- and 18-month-old infants recognize when they need referential information

[journal article]

Vaish, Amrisha; Demir, Ozlem Ece; Baldwin, Dare

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Abstract To learn from conspecifics, infants would be greatly advantaged by knowing when to seek information from them. Although in prior work infants used a labeler's gaze direction to infer the referent of a novel label, it was unclear whether infants in these studies recognized that they needed information or were happening upon the information by simply orienting to the labeler's voice. To address this issue, we presented 13- and 18-month-olds with either one or two novel objects and provided a novel label. If infants seek referential information, they should look more to the labeler in the presence of two objects relative to one object, since the labeler’s intended referent is highly ambiguous in the two-object case. This prediction was confirmed in two studies. In contrast, infants' looking was equivalent in the presence of one versus two objects in a baseline phase, when no labels were provided. Thus, 13- and 18-month-olds actively seek clarifying gaze information to resolve ambiguous learning situations. Word learning appears to be a rich pragmatic process as early as the end of the first year of life.
Classification Developmental Psychology
Free Keywords information seeking; referential understanding; gaze following; word learning; social cognition; pragmatics; infant cognition
Document language English
Publication Year 2011
Page/Pages p. 431-449
Journal Social Development, 20 (2011) 3
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)