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Infants’ attention during cross-situational word learning: Environmental variability promotes novelty preference

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
Article number105859
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/05/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date6/02/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Infants as young as 14 months can track cross-situational statistics between sets of words and objects to acquire word–referent mappings. However, in naturalistic word learning situations, words and objects occur with a host of additional information, sometimes noisy, present in the environment. In this study, we tested the effect of this environmental variability on infants’ word learning. Fourteen-month-old infants (N = 32) were given a cross-situational word learning task with additional gestural, prosodic, and distributional cues that occurred reliably or variably. In the reliable cue condition, infants were able to process this additional environmental information to learn the words, attending to the target object during test trials. But when the presence of these cues was variable, infants paid greater attention to the gestural cue during training and subsequently switched preference to attend more to novel word–object mappings rather than familiar ones at test. Environmental variation may be key to enhancing infants’ exploration of new information.