Dynamics in the early lexicon: Individual differences in word learning
In an ongoing study, we investigate the influence of category curiosity and category density on the acquisition of new word-object-associations. 30-months-olds (n=22) were, first, presented with 16 familiar objects from two broad (M = 31 members) and two narrow (M = 11 members) categories and heard their corresponding labels while their pupil dilation response was measured as an index of their interest in members of the di↵erent categories. Next, they were exposed to novel members from each of the four categories and tested on their learning of the new word- object-associations. In addition, a vocabulary questionnaire and a questionnaire on the child’s interests in di↵erent category members were administered.
Analyses indicate that children are able to learn novel members from both broad and narrow categories, but learning is more robust in the broad categories. This suggests that children are able to leverage their existing semantic knowledge to learn new words, which is in line with previous research. However, learning outcomes for novel members of a category are not correlated with pupil dilation as measured on familiar members of the same category.