ERIC Number: EJ781844
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Feb
Reference Count: 0
Labels Can Override Perceptual Categories in Early Infancy
Plunkett, Kim; Hu, Jon-Fan; Cohen, Leslie B.
Cognition, v106 n2 p665-681 Feb 2008
An extensive body of research claims that labels facilitate categorisation, highlight the commonalities between objects and act as invitations to form categories for young infants before their first birthday. While this may indeed be a reasonable claim, we argue that it is not justified by the experiments described in the research. We report on a series of experiments that demonstrate that labels can play a causal role in category formation during infancy. Ten-month-old infants were taught to group computer-displayed, novel cartoon drawings into two categories under tightly controlled experimental conditions. Infants were given the opportunity to learn the two categories under four conditions: Without any labels, with two labels that correlated with category membership, with two labels assigned randomly to objects, and with one label assigned to all objects. Category formation was assessed identically in all conditions using a novelty preference procedure conducted in the absence of any labels. The labelling condition had a decisive impact on the way infants formed categories: When two labels correlated with the visual category information, infants learned two categories, just as if there had been no labels presented. However, uncorrelated labels completely disrupted the formation of any categories. Finally, consistent use of a single label across objects led infants to learn one broad category that included all the objects. These findings demonstrate that even before infants start to produce their first words, the labels they hear can override the manner in which they categorise objects.
Descriptors: Cartoons, Infants, Classification, Merchandise Information, Object Permanence, Object Manipulation, Pictorial Stimuli, Computer Simulation, Cognitive Psychology, Language Acquisition, Cognitive Development, Novelty (Stimulus Dimension)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Early Childhood Education
Authoring Institution: N/A