Attention to Novel Objects during Verb Learning


  • Alan W. Kersten,

  • Linda B. Smith


Three experiments provided evidence that 3.5- to 4-year-old English-speaking children (N= 72) attend to the appearances of novel objects, not only when they hear a novel noun, but also when they hear a novel verb. Children learning nouns in the context of novel, moving objects attended exclusively to the appearances of objects, even though nouns were also related to the motions of those objects. Children learning verbs attended equally to the appearances of objects and their motions. The latter result contrasted with the results from adults (N= 20), who focused more strongly on motions than on the appearances of objects when learning verbs. When familiar objects were instead employed, child verb learners attended more to motions than to the appearances of objects. Children may attend to novel objects during verb learning because knowledge of an object may be prerequisite to understanding what a verb means in the context of that object.