Labels direct infants' attention to commonalities during novel category learning.
Althaus N., Mareschal D.
Recent studies have provided evidence that labeling can influence the outcome of infants' visual categorization. However, what exactly happens during learning remains unclear. Using eye-tracking, we examined infants' attention to object parts during learning. Our analysis of looking behaviors during learning provide insights going beyond merely observing the learning outcome. Both labeling and non-labeling phrases facilitated category formation in 12-month-olds but not 8-month-olds (Experiment 1). Non-linguistic sounds did not produce this effect (Experiment 2). Detailed analyses of infants' looking patterns during learning revealed that only infants who heard labels exhibited a rapid focus on the object part successive exemplars had in common. Although other linguistic stimuli may also be beneficial for learning, it is therefore concluded that labels have a unique impact on categorization.