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Do Both Pictures and Words Function as Symbols for 18- and 24-Month-Old Children?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2004
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Journal number2
Volume5
Number of pages28
Pages185-212
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In Experiment 1, 24-month-old toddlers were taught a new word (whisk) through the labeling of a picture of a whisk. After repeated pairings of the word and picture, participants were shown the picture and a real whisk and asked to indicate the whisk. They took the word to refer to the real object rather than to the picture. Experiment 2 established that children were not biased to select any novel real object in the test trial. Rather, the results from Experiment 1 reflected the child’s interpretation of the word as referring to the pictured kind. A third study confirmed that a novelty preference within a perceptually specified category could not account for the results of Experiment 1. A final study (Experiment 4) examined whether 18-month-old infants also understand pictures and words as symbols, and results were comparable to those of Experiments 1 and 2. Taken together, these results confirm that the mapping between words and objects for 18- and 24-month-olds is a referential relation, as opposed to an associative one. Furthermore, these results showthat children as young as 18 months begin to understand the symbolic nature of pictures.