Is a Pink Cow Still a Cow? Individual Differences in Toddlers' Vocabulary Knowledge and Lexical Representations

Lynn K. Perry, Jenny R. Saffran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

When a toddler knows a word, what does she actually know? Many categories have multiple relevant properties; for example, shape and color are relevant to membership in the category banana. How do toddlers prioritize these properties when recognizing familiar words, and are there systematic differences among children? In this study, toddlers viewed pairs of objects associated with prototypical colors. On some trials, objects were typically colored (e.g., Holstein cow and pink pig); on other trials, colors were switched (e.g., pink cow and Holstein-patterned pig). On each trial, toddlers were directed to find a target object. Overall, recognition was disrupted when colors were switched, as measured by eye movements. Moreover, individual differences in vocabularies predicted recognition differences: Toddlers who say fewer shape-based words were more disrupted by color switches. “Knowing” a word may not mean the same thing for all toddlers; different toddlers prioritize different facets of familiar objects in their lexical representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1090-1105
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive Science
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2017

Keywords

  • Individual differences
  • Language development
  • Lexical representation
  • Object recognition
  • Vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence

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