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Third-Party Social Interaction and Word Learning From Video


  • This research was supported by Vanderbilt University; by a Faculty Research Grant from the University of California, Santa Cruz Senate Committee on Research to Nameera Akhtar; by NIH Postdoctoral Training Grant T32 HD046423-10 to Priya M. Shimpi while at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and by NICHD Grant P30 HD15052 to the Kennedy Center at Vanderbilt University. We thank Gabrielle Strouse, Brian Verdine, Lauren Deisenroth, Shazia Ansari, and Paige Holden for help with data collection and coding, and the parents and children for participating.

concerning this article should be addressed to Katherine O’Doherty, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203–5721. Electronic mail may be sent to


In previous studies, very young children have learned words while “overhearing” a conversation, yet they have had trouble learning words from a person on video. In Study 1, 64 toddlers (mean age = 29.8 months) viewed an object-labeling demonstration in 1 of 4 conditions. In 2, the speaker (present or on video) directly addressed the child, and in 2, the speaker addressed another adult who was present or was with her on video. Study 2 involved 2 follow-up conditions with 32 toddlers (mean age = 30.4 months). Across the 2 studies, the results indicated that toddlers learned words best when participating in or observing a reciprocal social interaction with a speaker who was present or on video.

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