The Development of a Word-Learning Strategy

Cognition. 2003 Feb;87(1):B23-34. doi: 10.1016/s0010-0277(02)00186-5.


Two studies investigated young infants' use of the word-learning principle Mutual Exclusivity. In Experiment 1, a linear relationship between age and performance was discovered. Seventeen-month-old infants successfully used Mutual Exclusivity to map novel labels to novel objects in a preferential looking paradigm. That is, when presented a familiar and a novel object (e.g. car and phototube) and asked to "look at the dax", 17-month-olds increased looking to the novel object (i.e. phototube) above baseline preference. On these trials, 16-month-olds were at chance. And, 14-month-olds systematically increased looking to the familiar object (i.e. car) in response to hearing the novel label "dax". Experiment 2 established that this increase in looking to the car was due solely to hearing the novel label "dax". Several possible interpretations of the surprising form of failure at 14 months are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Verbal Learning*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Vocabulary*