Learning depends on attention. The processes that cue attention in the moment dynamically integrate learned regularities and immediate contextual cues. This paper reviews the extensive literature on cued attention and attentional learning in the adult literature and proposes that these fundamental processes are likely significant mechanisms of change in cognitive development. The value of this idea is illustrated using phenomena in children's novel word learning.
The literature on human and animal learning suggests that individuals attend to and act on cues differently based on the order in which they were learned. Recent studies have proposed that one specific type of learning outcome, the highlighting effect, can serve as a framework for understanding a number of early cognitive milestones. However, little is known how this learning effect itself emerges among children, whose memory and attention are much more limited compared to adults. Two experiments were conducted using (...) different versions of the general highlighting paradigm: Experiment 1 tested 3 to 6 year olds with a newly developed image-based version of the paradigm, which was designed specifically to test young children. Experiment 2 tested the validity of an image-based implementation of the highlighting paradigm with adult participants. The results from Experiment 1 provide evidence for the highlighting effect among children 3–6 years old, and they suggest age-related differences in dividing attention among multiple cues during learning. Experiment 2 replicated results from previous studies by showing robust biases for both image-based and text-based versions of the highlighting task. This study suggests that sensitivity to learning order emerges early through the process of cued attention, and the role of the highlighting effect in early language learning is discussed. (shrink)
A growing number of children in the United States are exposed to multiple languages at home from birth. However, relatively little is known about the early process of word learning—how words are mapped to the referent in their child-centered learning experiences. The present study defined parental input operationally as the integrated and multimodal learning experiences as an infant engages with his/her parent in an interactive play session with objects. By using a head-mounted eye tracking device, we recorded visual scenes from (...) the infant’s point of view, along with the parent’s social input with respect to gaze, labeling, and actions of object handling. Fifty-one infants and toddlers from an English monolingual or a diverse bilingual household were recruited to observe the early multimodal learning experiences in an object play session. Despite that monolingual parents spoke more and labeled more frequently relative to bilingual parents, infants from both language groups benefit from a comparable amount of socially coordinated experiences where parents name the object while the object is looked at by the infant. Also, a sequential path analysis reveals multiple social coordinated pathways that facilitate infant object looking. Specifically, young children’s attention to the referent objects is directly influenced by parent’s object handling. These findings point to the new approach to early language input and how multimodal learning experiences are coordinated socially for young children growing up with monolingual and bilingual learning contexts. (shrink)
Previous research suggests that children learning a variety of languages acquire similar early noun vocabularies and do so by similar and universal processes. We report here results from two studies that show differences in the early noun learning of English- and Japanese-speaking children. Experiment 1 examined the relative numbers of animal names and object names in vocabularies of English-speaking and Japanese-speaking children. English-speaking children's vocabularies were heavily lopsided with many more object than animal names whereas Japanese-speaking children's vocabularies were more (...) evenly balanced. Experiment 2 used a novel noun extension task to examine what young children know about the different organizations of animal and artifact categories. The results suggest that early learners of English but not Japanese over-generalize what they know about object categories to animal categories. The role of culture, input and linguistic structure in early noun acquisitions is discussed. (shrink)