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Labeling Guides Object Individuation in 12-Month-Old Infants

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A new manual search method was used to investigate the impact of naming on object individuation in 12-month-old infants. In Experiment 1, on a two-word trial, an experimenter looked into a box while the infant was watching and provided two labels (e.g., “Look, a fep!” and “Look, a wug!”). On a one-word trial, the experimenter instead repeated the same label (e.g., “Look, a zav!”). After the infant retrieved one object from the box, subsequent search behavior was recorded. Infants searched more persistently (i.e., for a longer duration) after hearing two labels than one, suggesting that hearing two labels led the infants to expect two objects inside the box. In Experiment 2, infants' search behavior did not differ depending on whether they heard one or two emotional expressions, suggesting that the facilitation effect observed in Experiment 1 may be specific to linguistic expressions. Thus, we provide the first evidence that infants as young as 12 months are able to use intentional and referential cues to guide their object representations. These findings also suggest that a rudimentary version of the mutual-exclusivity constraint may be functional by the end of the first year.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and 2: Northeastern University

Publication date: 2005-05-01

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