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This article explores young infants' ability to learn new words in situations providing tightly controlled social and salience cues to their reference. Four experiments investigated whether, given two potential referents, 15-month-olds would attach novel labels to (a) an image toward which a digital recording of a face turned and gazed, (b) a moving image versus a stationary image, (c) a moving image toward which the face gazed, and (d) a gazed-on image versus a moving image. Infants successfully used the recorded gaze cue to form new word-referent associations and also showed learning in the salience condition. However, their behavior in the salience condition and in the experiments that followed suggests that, rather than basing their judgments of the words' reference on the mere presence or absence of the referent's motion, infants were strongly biased to attend to the consistency with which potential referents moved when a word was heard.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Child Psychol

Publication Date





27 - 55


Acoustic Stimulation, Analysis of Variance, Attention, Child Language, Cues, Eye Movements, Female, Fixation, Ocular, Humans, Infant, Infant Behavior, Male, Movement, Photic Stimulation, Reference Values, Social Behavior, Verbal Learning, Visual Perception, Vocabulary