Publications

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    Steven S Robertson, Sarah Enos Watamura, Makeba Parramore Wilbourn
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    ABSTRACT: Young infants actively gather information about their world through visual foraging, but the dynamics of this important behavior is poorly understood, partly because developmental scientists have often equated its essential components, looking and attending. Here we describe a method for simultaneously tracking spatial attention to fixated and nonfixated locations during free looking in 12-week-old infants using steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs). Using this method, we found that the sequence of locations an infant inspects during free looking reflects a momentary bias away from locations that were recently the target of covert attention, quickly followed by the redirection of attention--in advance of gaze--to the next target of fixation. The result is a pattern of visual foraging that is likely to support efficient exploration of complex environments by facilitating the inspection of new locations in real time.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2012; 109(28):11460-4. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Makeba Parramore Wilbourn, Jacqueline Prince Sims
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    ABSTRACT: In the early stages of word learning, children demonstrate considerable flexibility in the type of symbols they will accept as object labels. However, around the second year as children continue to gain more language experience, they become focused on more conventional symbols (e.g., words) as opposed to less conventional symbols (e.g., gestures). During this period of symbolic narrowing, the degree to which children are able to learn other types of labels, such as arbitrary gestures, remains a topic of debate. Thus, the purpose of the current set of experiments was to determine whether a multimodal label (word+gesture) could facilitate 26-month-olds’ ability to learn an arbitrary gestural label. We hypothesized that the multimodal label would exploit children's focus on words thereby increasing their willingness to interpret the gestural label. To test this hypothesis, we conducted two experiments. In Experiment 1, 26-month-olds were trained with a multimodal label (word+gesture) and tested on their ability to map and generalize both the arbitrary gesture and the multimodal label to familiar and novel objects. In Experiment 2, 26-month-olds were trained and tested with only the gestural label. The findings revealed that 26-month-olds are able to map and generalize an arbitrary gesture when it is presented multimodally with a word, but not when it is presented in isolation. Furthermore, children's ability to learn the gestural labels was positively related to their reported productive vocabulary, providing additional evidence that children's focus on words actually helped, not hindered, their gesture learning.
    Journal of Cognition and Development - J COGN DEV. 01/2012;
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    Makeba Parramore Wilbourn, Laura E Kurtz, Vrinda Kalia
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    ABSTRACT: The relationship between language development and executive function (EF) in children is not well understood. The Lexical Stroop Sort (LSS) task is a computerized EF task created for the purpose of examining the relationship between school-aged children's oral language development and EF. To validate this new measure, a diverse sample of school-aged children completed standardized oral language assessments, the LSS task, and the widely used Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS; Zelazo, 2006) task. Both EF tasks require children to sort stimuli into categories based on predetermined rules. While the DCCS largely relies on visual stimuli, the LSS employs children's phonological loop to access their semantic knowledge base. Accuracy and reaction times were recorded for both tasks. Children's scores on the LSS task were correlated with their scores on the DCCS task, and a similar pattern of relationships emerged between children's vocabulary and the two EF tasks, thus providing convergent validity for the LSS. However, children's phonological awareness was associated with their scores on the LSS, but not with those on the DCCS. In addition, a mediation model was used to elucidate the predictive relationship between phonological awareness and children's performance on the LSS task, with children's vocabulary fully mediating this relationship. The use of this newly created and validated LSS task with different populations, such as preschoolers and bilinguals, is also discussed.
    Behavior Research Methods 08/2011; 44(1):270-86. · 2.12 Impact Factor
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    Makeba Parramore Wilbourn, Allen W Gottfried, Daniel W Kee
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    ABSTRACT: The relationship between consistency of hand preference, left hemispheric specialization, and cognitive functioning was examined in an ongoing longitudinal investigation. Children were classified as consistent or inconsistent in their hand preference across 5 assessments from ages 18 to 42 months. Findings demonstrated that (a) this early classification continued to reveal differences in cognitive functioning from 10 to 17 years but only for girls, (b) consistent girls' performances were continually higher relative to the inconsistent girls on measures of verbal intelligence and reading achievement, (c) differences between the female groups were specifically related to left-hemispheric language specialization, and (d) one factor influencing the consistent girls' development may be the amount of reading exposure received during infancy.
    Developmental Psychology 05/2011; 47(4):931-42. · 3.21 Impact Factor
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    Makeba Parramore Wilbourn, Daniel W. Kee
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    ABSTRACT: Eagly’s social role theory (Eagly and Steffen 1984) was tested examining children’s gender role stereotypes via implicit information processing and memory measures. We explored whether children’s occupational stereotypes were less restrictive for females who engaged in counterstereotypic occupations (Mary-Doctor) compared to males who engaged in counterstereotypic occupations (Henry-Nurse). Fifty-seven American eight- and nine-year-olds from a southwestern city were orally presented with stereotypic male and female names paired with masculine and feminine occupations and asked to create sentences using the name-occupation pairs. We conducted analyses of the created sentences as well as tested children’s memories for the various pairings. Consistent with social role theory, the findings revealed that children’s gender role stereotypes were more restrictive for males, than for females. KeywordsChildren-Gender role stereotypes-Social role theory-Occupational roles-Implicit measures-Knowledge base access-Memory
    Sex Roles 01/2010; 62(9):670-683. · 1.47 Impact Factor
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    Makeba Parramore Wilbourn, Marianella Casasola
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    ABSTRACT: We tested hearing 6- and 10-month-olds' ability to discriminate among three American Sign Language (ASL) parameters (location, handshape, and movement) as well as a grammatical marker (facial expression). ASL-naïve infants were habituated to a signer articulating a two-handed symmetrical sign in neutral space. During test, infants viewed novel two-handed signs that varied in only one parameter or in facial expression. Infants detected changes in the signer's facial expression and in the location of the sign but provided no evidence of detecting the changes in handshape or movement. These findings are consistent with children's production errors in ASL and reveal that infants can distinguish among some parameters of ASL more easily than others.
    Infant behavior & development 03/2007; 30(1):153-60. · 1.34 Impact Factor
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    Marianella Casasola, Makeba Parramore Wilbourn, Sujin Yang
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    ABSTRACT: English-learning toddlers of 21 and 22 months were taught a novel spatial word for four actions resulting in a tight-fit spatial relation, a relation that is lexically marked in Korean but not English (Choi & Bowerman, 1991). Toddlers in a control condition viewed the same tight-fit action events without the novel word. Toddlers' comprehension of the novel word was tested in a preferential-looking paradigm. Across four videotaped pairs of action events, a tight-fit event was paired with a loose-fit event. Only toddlers who were taught the novel spatial word looked significantly longer at the tight-fit events during the test trials that presented the novel word than during control trials that presented neutral linguistic stimuli. The results indicate that toddlers can map and generalize a novel word onto actions resulting in a tight-fit relation, given limited experience with the novel word. The results provide insight into how young word learners begin to form language-specific semantic spatial categories.
    First Language 01/2006; 26(2):187-205.
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    Marianella Casasola, Makeba Parramore Wilbourn
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    ABSTRACT: This study explored 14-month-old infants' ability to form novel word-spatial relation associations. During habituation, infants heard 1 novel word (e.g., teek) while viewing dynamic containment events (i.e., Big Bird placed in a box) and, on other habituation trials, a second novel word (e.g., blick) while viewing dynamic support events (i.e., Big Bird placed on the box). Each novel word was presented in a sentence (e.g., "She's putting Big Bird teek the box"). During the test, infants discriminated an event that maintained the habituation word-relation pairing from one that presented a switch in this pairing. The results indicate that 14-month-olds can learn to form word-relation associations quickly, requiring only a few minutes of experience with each word-relation pairing.
    Infancy 03/2004; 6(3):385-396. · 1.73 Impact Factor

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