Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 03 December 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00533

Changes in visual object recognition precede the shape bias in early noun learning

  • Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA

Two of the most formidable skills that characterize human beings are language and our prowess in visual object recognition. They may also be developmentally intertwined. Two experiments, a large sample cross-sectional study and a smaller sample 6-month longitudinal study of 18- to 24-month-olds, tested a hypothesized developmental link between changes in visual object representation and noun learning. Previous findings in visual object recognition indicate that children’s ability to recognize common basic level categories from sparse structural shape representations of object shape emerges between the ages of 18 and 24 months, is related to noun vocabulary size, and is lacking in children with language delay. Other research shows in artificial noun learning tasks that during this same developmental period, young children systematically generalize object names by shape, that this shape bias predicts future noun learning, and is lacking in children with language delay. The two experiments examine the developmental relation between visual object recognition and the shape bias for the first time. The results show that developmental changes in visual object recognition systematically precede the emergence of the shape bias. The results suggest a developmental pathway in which early changes in visual object recognition that are themselves linked to category learning enable the discovery of higher-order regularities in category structure and thus the shape bias in novel noun learning tasks. The proposed developmental pathway has implications for understanding the role of specific experience in the development of both visual object recognition and the shape bias in early noun learning.

Keywords: visual object recognition, shape bias, word learning, development, infants

Citation: Yee M, Jones SS and Smith LB (2012) Changes in visual object recognition precede the shape bias in early noun learning. Front. Psychology 3:533. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00533

Received: 31 July 2012; Accepted: 12 November 2012;
Published online: 03 December 2012.

Edited by:

Dima Amso, Cornell University Weill Medical College, USA

Reviewed by:

Carmel Houston-Price, University of Reading, UK
Yumiko Otsuka, University of New South Wales, Australia

Copyright: © 2012 Yee, Jones and Smith. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Linda B. Smith, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, 1101 East, 10th Street, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. e-mail: smith4@indiana.edu

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