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Vocabulary and automatic attention: The relation between novel words and gaze dynamics in noun generalization

Bakopoulou, Milena; Lorenz, Megan G.; Forbes, Samuel H.; Tremlin, Rachel; Bates, Jessica; Samuelson, Larissa K.

Vocabulary and automatic attention: The relation between novel words and gaze dynamics in noun generalization Thumbnail


Milena Bakopoulou

Megan G. Lorenz

Rachel Tremlin

Jessica Bates

Larissa K. Samuelson


Words direct visual attention in infants, children, and adults, presumably by activating representations of referents that then direct attention to matching stimuli in the visual scene. Novel, unknown, words have also been shown to direct attention, likely via the activation of more general representations of naming events. To examine the critical issue of how novel words and visual attention interact to support word learning we coded frame-by-frame the gaze of 17- to 31-month-old children (n = 66, 38 females) while generalizing novel nouns. We replicate prior findings of more attention to shape when generalizing novel nouns, and a relation to vocabulary development. However, we also find that following a naming event, children who produce fewer nouns take longer to look at the objects they eventually select and make more transitions between objects before making a generalization decision. Children who produce more nouns look to the objects they eventually select more quickly following the naming event and make fewer looking transitions. We discuss these findings in the context of prior proposals regarding children's few-shot category learning, and a developmental cascade of multiple perceptual, cognitive, and word-learning processes that may operate in cases of both typical development and language delay.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 18, 2023
Online Publication Date Apr 18, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date May 12, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 12, 2023
Journal Developmental Science
Print ISSN 1363-755X
Electronic ISSN 1467-7687
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Authors. Developmental Science published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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