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Young children's referent selection is guided by novelty for both words and actions

Dysart, Erin L.; Mather, Emily; Riggs, Kevin J.


Erin L. Dysart


Young children are biased to select novel, name-unknown objects as referents of novel labels (e.g., Markman, 1990) and similarly favour novel, action-unknown objects as referents of novel actions (Riggs, Mather, Hyde & Simpson, 2015). What process underlies these common behaviors? In the case of word learning, children may be driven by a novelty bias favouring novel objects as referents (Horst, Samuelson, Kucker & McMurray, 2011). Our study investigates this bias further by investigating whether novelty also affects children’s selection of novel objects when a new action is given. In a pre-exposure session, 40, three- and four-year-olds were shown eight novel objects for one minute. In subsequent referent selection trials children were shown two pre-exposed and one super-novel object and heard either a novel name or saw a novel action. The super-novel object was selected significantly more that the pre-exposed objects on both word and action trials. Our data add to the growing literature suggesting that an endogenous attentional bias to novelty plays a role in children’s referent selection and demonstrates further parallels between word and action learning.


Dysart, E. L., Mather, E., & Riggs, K. J. (2016). Young children's referent selection is guided by novelty for both words and actions. Journal of experimental child psychology, 146, 231-237.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 17, 2016
Publication Date Jun 1, 2016
Deposit Date Jan 18, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Journal of experimental child psychology
Print ISSN 0022-0965
Electronic ISSN 1096-0457
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 146
Pages 231-237
Keywords Referent selection, Novelty, Action-object mapping, Word-object mapping, Domain-general cognition, Word learning
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Journal of experimental child psychology, 2016, v.146


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