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Keywords:

  • Word learning;
  • Fast mapping;
  • Initial accuracy;
  • Statistical learning

Abstract

Previous research on lexical development has aimed to identify the factors that enable accurate initial word-referent mappings based on the assumption that the accuracy of initial word-referent associations is critical for word learning. The present study challenges this assumption. Adult English speakers learned an artificial language within a cross-situational learning paradigm. Visual fixation data were used to assess the direction of visual attention. Participants whose longest fixations in the initial trials fell more often on distracter images performed significantly better at test than participants whose longest fixations fell more often on referent images. Thus, inaccurate initial word-referent mappings may actually benefit learning.