Rapid word learning by fifteen-month-olds under tightly controlled conditions.
Schafer G., Plunkett K.
Infants (12 to 17 months) were taught 2 novel words for 2 images of novel objects, by pairing isolated auditory labels with to-be-associated images. Comprehension was tested using a preferential looking task in which the infant was presented with both images together with an isolated auditory label. The auditory label usually, but not always, matched one of the images. Infants looked preferentially at images that matched the auditory stimulus. The experiment controlled within-subjects for both side bias and preference for previously named items. Infants showed learning after 12 presentations of the new words. Evidence is presented that, in certain circumstances, the duration of longest look at a target may be a more robust measure of target preference than overall looking time. The experiment provides support for previous demonstrations of rapid word learning by pre-vocabulary spurt children, and offers some methodological improvements to the preferential looking task.