The First Slow Step: Differential Effects of Object and Word-Form Familiarization on Retention of Fast-Mapped Words


should be sent to Sarah C. Kucker, Department of Psychology, E11 Seashore Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242. E-mail:


Recent research demonstrated that although 24-month-old infants do well on the initial pairing of a novel word and novel object in fast-mapping tasks, they are unable to retain the mapping after a 5 min delay. The current study examines the role of familiarity with the objects and words on infants’ ability to bridge between the initial fast mapping of a name and object, and later retention in the service of slow mapping. Twenty-four-month-old infants were familiarized with either novel objects or novel names prior to the referent selection portion of a fast-mapping task. When familiarized with the novel objects, infants retained the novel mapping after a delay, but not when familiarized with the novel words. This suggests familiarity with the object versus the word form leads to differential encoding of the name–object link. We discuss the implications of this finding for subsequent slow mapping.