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

Cognitive Science 41 (4):1090-1105 (2017)

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 ; on other trials, colors were switched. 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.
Keywords Lexical representation  Object recognition  Language development  Individual differences  Vocabulary
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DOI 10.1111/cogs.12370
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