Find Your Manners: How Do Infants Detect the Invariant Manner of Motion in Dynamic Events?

Article (PDF Available)inChild Development 83(3):977-91 · February 2012with66 Reads
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01737.x · Source: PubMed
Abstract
To learn motion verbs, infants must be sensitive to the specific event features lexicalized in their language. One event feature important for the acquisition of English motion verbs is the manner of motion. This article examines when and how infants detect manners of motion across variations in the figure's path. Experiment 1 shows that 13- to 15-month-olds (N = 30) can detect an invariant manner of motion when the figure's path changes. Experiment 2 reveals that reducing the complexity of the events, by dampening the figure's path, helps 10- to 12-month-olds (N = 19) detect the invariant manner. These findings suggest that: (a) infants notice event features lexicalized in English motion verbs, and (b) attention to manner can be promoted by reducing event complexity.
Find Your Manners: How Do Infants Detect the Invariant Manner of Motion
in Dynamic Events?
Shannon M. Pruden
Florida International University
Tilbe Go
¨
ksun
University of Pennsylvania
Sarah Roseberry
University of Washington
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Temple University
Roberta M. Golinkoff
University of Delaware
To learn motion verbs, infants must be sensitive to the specific event features lexicalized in their language.
One event feature important for the acquisition of English motion verbs is the manner of motion. This article
examines when and how infants detect manners of motion across variations in the figure’s path. Experiment
1 shows that 13- to 15-month-olds (N = 30) can detect an invariant manner of motion when the figure’s path
changes. Experiment 2 reveals that reducing the complexity of the events, by dampening the figure’s path,
helps 10- to 12-month-olds (N = 19) detect the invariant manner. These findings suggest that: (a) infants notice
event features lexicalized in English motion verbs, and (b) attention to manner can be promoted by reducing
event complexity.
Central to understanding how children acquire
motion verbs and spatial prepositions is an exami-
nation of how infants process, discriminate and cat-
egorize events, actions, and spatial relations.
Infants must be able to make sense of the world of
actions and events around them before they can
map words onto these actions and events. Until
recently, most investigations of children’s develop-
ing verb lexicon have either explored children’s
production of motion verbs and spatial preposi-
tions (Choi & Bowerman, 1991; Choi & Gopnik,
1995; Naigles, Hoff, & Vear, 2009; Tardif, 1996;
Tomasello, 1992), or have explored the mapping of
motion verbs and spatial prepositions onto actions
and events (Behrend, 1995; Choi, McDonough,
Bowerman, & Mandler, 1999; Fisher, 2002; Maguire
et al., 2010; Naigles, 1996). Research has only just
begun to examine when and how infants have the
conceptual knowledge and abilities needed to make
sense of the events, actions, and spatial relations
that motion verbs and other spatial words encode
(see Go
¨
ksun, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2010;
Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2008; Pruden, Hirsh-
Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2008; Wagner & Lakusta, 2009,
for reviews). This article focuses on the knowledge
children have before they map their first motion
verbs onto actions and events (also see Hirsh-Pasek
& Golinkoff, 2006).
Although most children produce their first
motion verbs sometime before their second birth-
days (Fenson et al., 1994; Naigles et al., 2009), we
do not know when and how children acquire the
conceptual knowledge needed to learn these verbs.
Infants are quite proficient at representing the
events they perceive in the world and do so at a
This research was supported by an NSF grant (SBR9615391)
and an NIH grant (RO1HD050199) to Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and
Roberta M. Golinkoff. Special thanks go to Anthony Dick and
two anonymous reviewers for providing comments on earlier
drafts of this manuscript. We thank Meredith Meyer, Mandy
Maguire, Natalie Sheridan, Meredith Jones, Amanda Brandone,
Wendy Shallcross, Katrina Ferrara, Russell Richie, Aimee Stahl,
and the numerous undergraduate and graduate students at the
Temple University Infant Laboratory and the University of Dela-
ware Infant Language Project for their assistance in data collec-
tion and data coding. Finally, we would also like to express our
deepest gratitude to all of the families that participated in these
studies.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to
Shannon M. Pruden, Department of Psychology, Florida Interna-
tional University, DM 296A, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL
33199. Electronic mail may be sent to shannon.pruden@fiu.edu.
Child Development, May/June 2012, Volume 83, Number 3, Pages 977–991
2012 The Authors
Child Development 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
All rights reserved. 0009-3920/2012/8303-0018
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01737.x
relatively young age (see Pruden et al., 2008, for a
review). For example, research demonstrates that
infants can carve up larger events into individual
units of action early in infancy (Baldwin, Baird,
Saylor, & Clark, 2001; Bertenthal, Proffitt, & Cut-
ting, 1984; Sharon & Wynn, 1998; Wynn, 1996). But,
as Clark (2003) writes, infants also need ‘‘to know
how to decompose scenes into the constituent parts
relevant to linguistic expressions in the language’’
(p. 168). Motion verbs, for example, do not label
whole actions; they label only a subset of actions
called ‘‘semantic components.’’ These semantic
components include manner , or the way in which a
figure moves, (e.g., walk, swagger); motion, or the
general fact that motion is taking place; path, or the
trajectory of a figure with respect to a ground
object, (e.g., enter the house); figure, or the primary
agent or object in the event (e.g., Charles walked);
ground, or the reference point to which the figure
moves in relation (e.g., Charles circled the barn);
source, or the beginning point of an event, and goal,
the end point of an event (e.g., Charles walked
from the river [source] to the barn [goal]; Jackendoff,
1983; Langacker, 1987; Talmy, 1985, 2000).
Within the class of motion verbs, specific subsets
of these semantic components combine to generate
the verb system in a language (Talmy, 1985; also
see Langacker, 1987). For example, manner verbs,
like run, jump, and swagger, encode the manner of
motion. Verbs like enter, approach, and ascend,
encode the path that the figure traverses. Some
motion verbs encode more than one semantic com-
ponent (Pulverman, Rohrbeck, Chen, and Ulrich,
2008). The motion verb deplane, for example, con-
veys information about both path and ground.
Children must learn which semantic components
are relevant to learning a particular verb in their
native language and, importantly, must attend to
and form categories of just those semantic compo-
nents that jointly form that motion verb. Further-
more, they must learn the general tendencies in
their language. English, for example, has more
manner verbs than path verbs, while languages like
Greek and Spanish are more likely to include path
within the verb and manner outside of the verb, if
at all, in an accompanying adverb (e.g., ascendere;
Slobin, 2001; Talmy, 2000). Some argue that to learn
verbs infants must be able to pay attention to and
form categories of these semantic components
before they can begin to map labels to them (Gent-
ner & Boroditsky, 2001; Golinkoff et al., 2002).
Thus, understanding how children learn verbs
requires that we investigate when and how infants
are able to make sense of those semantic compo-
nents conveyed by motion verbs. Here we explore
whether English-learning infants abstract the invari-
ant manner of motion from a set of dynamic events.
More specifically, we examine (a) when infants can
detect the manner of motion across variations in
the path of the figure and (b) whether detection of
the invariant manner of motion can be promoted in
infants by reducing the relational complexity of the
events.
Research suggests that infants both recognize
changes to and form categories of semantic compo-
nents encoded in both motion verbs and spatial
prepositions. For example, infants notice contain-
ment and support relations, which are codified in
English spatial prepositions (e.g., in and on). Baillar-
geon and colleagues (Baillargeon, 2004; Baillargeon
& Wang, 2002; Hespos & Baillargeon, 2001a, 2001b;
Hespos & Spelke, 2004) showed that 2.5-month-olds
have a rudimentary understanding of what hap-
pens in both containment events (i.e., when some-
thing is lowered into an open container) and
support events (i.e., when something is lowered
onto a closed container). Furthermore, infants form
categories of these events. By 6 months of age
infants form categories of containment relations
and by 14 months they form categories of support
relations (see Casasola, 2008, for a review; Casasola,
2005; Casasola & Cohen, 2002; Casasola, Cohen, &
Chiarello, 2003; McDonough, Choi, & Mandler,
2003). Finally, infants can represent both the
sources and goals (Lakusta & Landau, 2005; Lakusta,
Wagner, O’Hearn, & Landau, 2007; Wagner & Laku-
sta, 2009) and figures and grounds in dynamic
motion events (Go
¨
ksun, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff,
2009; also see Bornstein, Arterberry, & Mash, 2010,
for infants’ categorization of figures across different
contexts, or grounds, in static events).
Only a few studies have examined infants’ abil-
ity to discriminate changes in a figure’s path and
manner of motion despite the importance of notic-
ing these changes for learning motion verbs (Casa-
sola, Hohenstein, & Naigles, 2003; Pruden,
Roseberry, Go
¨
ksun, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, in
press; Pulverman, Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, & Soots-
man Buresh, 2008; Pulverman, Song, Pruden,
Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, in press). Pulverman,
Golinkoff, et al. (2008), Pulverman, Rohrbeck, et al.
(2008), and Pulverman et al. (in press) demon-
strated that English- and Spanish-learning infants
are able to discriminate among different paths and
manners of action. Using a habituation paradigm,
7- to 9-month-olds and 14- to 17-month-olds were
shown an animated starfish simultaneously per-
forming a manner and path (e.g., starfish spinning
978 Pruden, Go
¨
ksun, Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff
under [the ball]). After infants were habituated to
this single event, they were shown four different test
trials: a control trial in which infants viewed the
same event as in habituation (e.g., starfish spinni ng
under [the ball]), a path change trial (e.g., starfish
spinning over [the ball]), a manner change trial (e.g.,
starfish jumping jacks under [the ball]), and a path and
manner change trial (e.g., starfish bendi ng past [the
ball]). Both the younger and older infants increased
their attention to all three of the path and manner
change test trials, suggesting that they had discrimi-
nated changes in these two semantic components
compared with the habituated event. Furthermore,
infants also appear to discriminate paths and man-
ners in dynamic events involving human agents
(Casasola, Hohenstein, et al., 2003; also see Song, 2009).
Discrimination of path and manner changes,
however, is not sufficient for learning motion verbs
as motion verbs refer to categories of actions. Con-
sider the action of ‘‘running.’’ Infants must learn
that similar and dissimilar actions are categorized
together (as when both four-legged and two-legged
animals run) and that even when other key features
of the event change (such as the path, as in
‘‘running toward’’ or ‘‘running away’’), the same
manner of motion is still called runn ing.
Previous research examined infants’ ability to
detect an invariant path when other features of the
event, such as the figure’s manner of motion, varied
(Pruden et al., in press). Using a superset of the
stimuli used by Pulverman, Golinkoff, et al. (2008),
Pulverman, Rohrbeck, et al. (2008), and Pulverman
et al. (in press), infants viewed an animated starfish
performing four distinct manners across the same
path during a familiarization phase (e.g., starfish
spinning over [the ball], starfish twisting over [the
ball], starfish bending over [the ball], and starfish
jumping jacks over [the ball]). At test, infants were
shown two events simultaneously: One event
depicted a novel manner with the same path (e.g.,
starfish toe touching over [the ball]), and the other
event depicted a novel manner with a novel path
(e.g., starfish toe touching under [the ball]). Ten- to
12-month-olds showed a significant preference for
the event containing the same path (i.e., familiar
event) during the test phase, suggesting that they
abstracted the invariant path across changing man-
ners of motion. This study provided some of the
first evidence that infants can detect invariant
actions even when other key event features, such as
the figure’s manner of motion, were changing.
A second experiment tested the linguistic defini-
tion of path by showing that infants could only
detect the invariant path across varying manners
when a ground object was present (Pruden et al.,
in press). That is, a path is present when there is an
extrinsic relation between the figure and a ground
object (Talmy, 1985). When the ground object (i.e.,
[the ball]) was omitted from the familiarization
events, thereby removing the extrinsic path relation
between the figure and ground object, infants no
longer showed evidence of the ability to abstract
the invariant relation. This study is further evi-
dence that infants are in fact abstracting semantic
components from dynamic events.
Little, however, is known about whether infants
can abstract a figure’s manner of motion when other
features of the event—such as the figure’s path—are
in flux. As the majority of English motion verbs
encode the manner of motion, this ability is funda-
mentally important to their acquisition. Herein, we
examine when and how English-learning infants
abstract the invariant manner of motion when the
path of the figure is changing. Building off of
Pulverman, Golinkoff, et al. (2008), Pulverman,
Rohrbeck, et al. (2008), and Pulverman et al. (in
press), and using a superset of the same animated
stimuli, we explored when infants could abstract the
manner of motion when the extrinsic relation of
path between the figure and the ground object chan-
ged. Thus, infants participating in Experiment 1
were asked to extract the invariant manner of motion
across situations in which the figure’s path varied
(e.g., starfish spinning around [the ball], starfish spin-
ning past [the ball], etc.). We believe this ability is a
core prerequisite to forming categories of these
types of actions and events and thus is foundational
to the acquisition of English motion verbs.
Experiment 1: When Can Infants Abstract the
Invariant Manner of Motion Across Variations in
Path in Dynamic Events?
Could 10- to 12-month-olds and 13- to 15-month-
olds abstract the manner of motion across events
varying the path of the figure? Research on infants’
ability to abstract the path shows that infants aged
10–12 months can detect an invariant path when
the figure’s manner of motion changes (Pruden
et al., in press). Thus, in the present experiment we
began our investigation of infants’ ability to
abstract the invariant manner of motion with
infants of the same age and using the same ani-
mated stimuli as had been used previously.
Infants viewed four exemplars of the animated
character performing the same manner of motion
across four different paths. Previous research by
Infants’ Detection of the Invariant Manner of Motion 979
Pulverman, Golinkoff, et al. (2008), Pulverman,
Rohrbeck, et al. (2008), and Pulverman et al. (in press)
shows that infants can discriminate changes in both
path and manner using the same events we used in
the familiarization phase of Experiment 1. During the
test phase, infants were shown two test events simul-
taneously: one in which the animated character
performed the same manner as before and the other
in which it performed a novel manner. If infants are
able to detect invariant manners of motion across
changes in the figure’s path, they should show a sig-
nificant preference for one of the events over the other
during the test phase. A significant preference dem-
onstrates that infants can tell the difference between
the familiarized manner and the novel manner and,
importantly, provides some of the first evidence that
infants can note changes in the manner of motion
across other fluctuations in the event.
Method
Participants
Thirty 10- to 12-month-olds (M = 11.36, SD = .78;
15 males, 15 females) and thirty 13- to 15-month-
olds (M = 14.59, SD = .90; 15 males, 15 females)
formed the final sample. All infants were full term
at birth and were recruited from monolingual,
English-speaking households in suburban areas of
Philadelphia, PA and Newark, DE. Most infants
came from families with middle-class or upper-
middle-class socioeconomic status and were Cauca-
sian. Less than 5% of participants were of Hispanic,
Asian American, or African American descent. An
additional 15 infants across these two age groups
were excluded from further analysis due to fussi-
ness (N = 12), low attention (N = 1), and side bias
(N = 2). Low attention was defined as watching less
than 50% of the stimuli. Side bias was calculated by
dividing infants’ total looking to the right side of the
screen by their total looking time to both the right
and left sides of the screen (for all split-screen trials).
Calculations greater than .80 or less than .20 were an
indication of a bias for one side of the screen.
Stimuli
The stimuli were computer-animated dynamic
motion events. No linguistic stimuli accompanied
the events in either experiment. Each event con-
sisted of a purple starfish character (roughly 6.75
in. width, from arm to arm and 5.25 in. in height,
from head to toe) performing an action in relation
to a stationary green ball (approximately 2.25 in.
wide and 2.00 in. tall) found in the center of the
screen. This green ball served as the external refer-
ence around which the starfish moved. In each
event, the animated starfish performed one of six
manners (i.e., bending, bowing, jumping jacks,
spinning, toe touching, and twisting; Figure 1)
while moving along one of five different paths (i.e.,
over, under, past, around, and in front of; Figure 2).
Combining the various manners and paths yielded a
total of 30 possible events that infants could view
(e.g., bending over, bowing over, etc.).
During each event, the animated starfish tra-
versed a path while performing a manner over the
course of 3 s. The starfish then reversed its direction
and traversed back along the same path for an addi-
tional 3 s. The starfish repeated this pattern for a
total of 12 s. One exception to this timing was the
path, around. This path was traversed in 6 s with the
starfish completing two continuous circles during
the 12 s. Thus, the starfish moved at the same speed
for the around path as it did for the over and under
paths. These stimuli were based on those used in
Pulverman, Golinkoff, et al. (2008), Pulverman,
Rohrbeck, et al. (2008), Pulverman et al. (in press),
and Pruden et al. (in press). The animated character
and his actions were created using Strata 3Dpro
version 3.9. Final editing of the digitized events was
completed using Final Cut Pro HD version 4.5.
Procedure
The Preferential Looking Paradigm (Golinkoff,
Hirsh-Pasek, Cauley, & Gordon, 1987; Hirsh-Pasek
& Golinkoff, 1996), without language, was used.
Infants participated in an introduction phase, a sal-
ience phase, a familiarization phase, and a test
phase. Infants were seated on their parent’s lap
approximately 2.5 ft from a 44-in. television screen.
Two video cameras, placed on either side of the
television screen, were used to (a) record infant’s
eye gaze and (b) play the stimuli (Figure 3). Parents
were asked to close their eyes and remain quiet
during the study so that they could not influence
their child’s responses. Children’s data would have
been excluded from further analyses if their parents
influenced their responses (e.g., parent pointed to
events, parent turned their head to look at sides of
screen, parent talked about events), but all parents
complied.
Introduction phase.. Infants first saw the animated
character on one side of the screen for 6 s and then
on the other side of the screen for another 6 s. Dur-
ing each of these 6-s events, the starfish moved
across the screen from left to right and back while
980 Pruden, Go
¨
ksun, Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff
stretching out his arms and legs. The ground object,
the stationary green ball, was not present during
the introduction phase events. The introduction
phase was used to ensure that infants looked to
both sides of the screen during the study (i.e., did
not have a side bias). The order of appearance on
each side of the screen was counterbalanced.
Salience phase.. The salience phase presented
events identical to those used during the test phase.
Infants viewed two events side by side for a total of
12 s to measure any a priori preference for the test
events.
Familiarization phase.. Infants viewed four differ-
ent 12-s events sequentially in the center of the
screen, yielding a total of 48 s of exposure across the
familiarization phase. Each event was presented as a
separate trial on the full television screen. Trials were
separated by a centering stimulus. All four familiar-
ization events were exemplars from the same manner
category and shared a common manner but differed
in their path. For example, infants in the manner con-
dition, spinning, saw the starfish spinning around [the
ball], spinning past [the ball], spinning in front of [the
ball], and spinning under [the ball].
Test phase.. The test phase assessed whether
infants had detected a change in the manner of
motion (in this example, spinning) across multiple
exemplars of path. Infants were shown two events
Figure 1. Six manners were created for the experiments. Each of the six manners are shown here as static pictures on a 2 s timescale,
though they were presented as dynamic events.
Infants’ Detection of the Invariant Manner of Motion 981
simultaneously on a split screen for 12 s. One was
an in-category, familiar test event that contained the
same manner seen during familiarization now com-
bined with a novel path. The other was an out-of-cat-
egory, novel event with neither a manner nor a path
seen during familiarization. For example, infants
familiarized with the starfish spinning around [the
ball], spinning past [the ball], spinning in front of [the
ball], and spinning under [the ball] would, at test,
see the starfish spinning over [the ball] (in-category
test event—familiar manner, novel path) and bending
over [the ball] (out-of-category test event—novel
manner, novel path). Thus, in both test events,
infants saw the same novel path (i.e., over), paired
with either the familiar manner or new manner.
As with other studies evaluating infants’ dis-
crimination and categorization of spatial relations
(e.g., McDonough et al., 2003), each 12-s test trial
was repeated twice to ensure infants had ample
time to view the test events. Twelve-second test
trials allowed infants to see at least two repetitions
of the figure’s path. Infants were randomly
assigned to one of six between-subject conditions,
with each condition testing a different manner of
motion (i.e., bending, bowing, jumping jacks, spinning,
toe touching, and twisting). The side of the screen on
which the familiar or in-category event appeared
was counterbalanced across conditions.
Centering stimulus.. A centering stimulus consist-
ing of a 3-s video of a baby’s smiling face accompa-
nied by the song ‘‘Oh, Susanna,’’ was used between
trials to ensure that infants returned their gaze to
the center of screen before each trial began.
Coding, reliability, and calculation of the dependent
variable.. The dependent variable was infants’ visual
fixation time to each event coded from video
recordings by research assistants who were blind to
the infant’s familiarization condition. Buttons were
depressed to record how long infants looked to the
left, right, and center of the screen for each phase.
To calculate intercoder reliability, two indepen-
dent coders coded 20% of the infants in both Exper-
iments 1 and 2 with a resulting mean reliability of
r > .98 (SD £ .01). Intracoder reliability was calcu-
lated for 100% of the participants resulting in
r > .99 (SD £ .01) across both experiments.
A novelty-preference score was calculated for
each child by taking the average looking time
toward the out-of-category (novel) event and divid-
ing by the sum of the average looking time toward
the out-of-category (novel) event and the in-cate-
gory (familiar) event. Proportions above .50 meant
the infant looked at the out-of-category (novel)
event longer than the in-category (familiar) event,
while proportions below .50 meant the infant
watched the in-category (familiar) event longer
than the out-of-category (novel) event.
Figure 2. Five paths were created for the experiments. The X
depicts the starting and ending points for each of the five paths,
while the dotted line shows the path the figure followed.
Figure 3. The child sits on his or her parent’s lap in front of a
large television screen. A camera to the left of the television
screen records the child’s looking preferences to the visual
stimuli, while a video camera to the right of the television screen
plays the visual stimuli.
982 Pruden, Go
¨
ksun, Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff
Results
Data sets for each age group were exam-
ined for suspected outliers (i.e., standardized z
scores 2 SD). Data from four infants (two 10- to
12-month-olds and two 13- to 15-month-olds) were
removed from their respective analyses because
their salience phase data (N = 1) or test phase data
(N = 3) were outliers.
The Salience Phase
No main effect of familiarization condition
(i.e., bending, bowing, jumping jacks, spinning, toe
touching, twisting), child gender, nor any interac-
tions between these variables were found (for
10- to 12-month-olds, Fs < 1.79, ps > .20; for 13- to
15-month-olds, Fs < 1.63, ps > .21). Subsequent
analyses collapsed across these variables. A
planned contrast showed no difference in perfor-
mance between the 10- to 12-month-olds (M = 0.48,
SD = .18) and the 13- to 15-month-olds (M = 0.49,
SD = .20), t(57) = )0.29, p > .05, d = 0.08, so we col-
lapsed across age group. To evaluate whether
infants had any a priori preferences for our test
events we conducted a one-sample t test compared
to a chance value of .50. This test revealed that
infants did not show a preference for either event
during the salience phase (M = 0.49, SD = .19),
t(58) = )0.51, p > .05, d = 0.13, suggesting that
infants found the test events equally salient prior to
the familiarization phase.
The Familiarization Phase
Looking times during the familiarization phase
were examined to determine whether there were
any age differences in infants’ attention to the
events. A 2 (age group) · 4 (familiarization trial)
repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA
)
revealed a significant linear trend across the famil-
iarization trials, F(1, 58) = 19.09, p < .05, g
p
2
= .25,
but no main effect of age nor any interaction
(Fs < 0.46, ps > .71). While infants across both age
groups were equally attentive during the familiar-
ization events, they did show a significant decline
in looking across the familiarization trials (Figure 4,
top graph).
The Test Phase: Finding the Invariant Manner in the
Presence of a Ground Object
No main effect of familiarization condition, child
gender, nor any interactions between these factors
(for 10- to 12-month-olds, Fs < 1.25, ps > .33; for 13-
to 15-month-olds, Fs < 2.19, ps > .16) were found
on the test phase data; thus, we collapsed across
these factors. Children’s novelty-preference scores
at test were analyzed in a 2 (age group) · 2 (test
trial) mixed model ANOVA to assess age differ-
ences in the ability to abstract the invariant manner
of motion across our two test trials. This analysis
revealed a significant interaction between age
group and test trial, F(1, 54) = 7.27, p < .05,
g
p
2
= .12. This interaction was driven by a signifi-
cant age difference for the second, t(54) = 3.21,
p < .05, d = 0.86, but not first t(55) = 0.10, p > .05,
d = 0.03, test trial.
We also wanted to know whether infants
showed a significant preference for one event over
Figure 4. Top graph shows infants’ looking times during the
familiarization trials for Experiment 1. The y axis shows average
looking time in seconds (of 12 s). Infants in both age groups
showed a linear decline in their looking times during the
familiarization phase, however, infants from the two age groups
did not differ in their attention to the familiarization events. The
bottom graph displays infants’ looking times during test trials
for Experiment 1. The y axis depicts the average novelty-
preference scores. A number greater than .50 indicates a
preference for the novel event, while a number below .50
indicates a preference for the familiar event. Only the 13- to 15-
month-olds showed a significant preference for the out-of-
category test event.
*p < .05.
Infants’ Detection of the Invariant Manner of Motion 983
the other within the test trial that showed age dif-
ferences (i.e., the second test trial) and averaged
across our two test trials. One-sample t tests found
that 10- to 12-month-olds showed no significant
preference for either event during the second test
trial (M = 0.47, SD = .18), t(26) = )0.82, p > .05,
d = 0.32, or across the averaged test trials
(M = 0.51, SD = .11), t(27) = 0.29, p > .05, d = 0.11.
However, 13- to 15-month-olds showed a signifi-
cant preference for the out-of-category (novel) event
during the second test trial (M = 0.62, SD = .17),
t(28) = 3.90, p < .05, d = 1.48, and across the aver-
aged test trials (M = 0.58, SD = .14), t(28) = 2.90,
p < .05, d = 1.09. Figure 4 (bottom graph) depicts
infants’ average looking times for both age groups,
both broken down by test trial and averaged across
test trials.
Discussion
Experiment 1 investigated when English-learning
infants could abstract the invariant manner of
motion, a component lexicalized in English motion
verbs, across changes in the figure’s path. Two
groups of infants, 10- to 12-month-olds and 13- to
15-month-olds, were tested on their ability to detect
the invariant manner of motion across variations in
the figure’s path. The main result of this study was
that 13- to 15-month-old infants abstracted the
invariant manner of motion by showing a signifi-
cant preference for the novel, out-of-category event
during the test phase. The 10- to 12-month-olds
infants, on the other hand, failed to show a signifi-
cant preference for either event during either test
phase, suggesting that they could not abstract the
invariant manner of motion. This finding was dri-
ven by an interaction between age group and test
trial, which showed that 13- to 15-month-olds per-
formed differently than the 10- to 12-month-olds
during the second test trial.
Importantly, there was no a priori preference to
our test events prior to the familiarization phase,
indicating that any observed differences between
test events were not the result of children’s initial
preference for one event over another in a pair.
Rather, we can infer that a preference for one of
our events at test resulted from viewing the varied
familiarization events and abstracting the invariant
manner of motion.
Analysis of the familiarization phase data
revealed that infants showed a significant and reli-
able decrement in looking across the familiarization
trials. A reliable decrement in looking to familiar-
ization stimuli has been taken as evidence that
infants engaged in categorization of the spatial rela-
tions above, below and between in previous
research (Quinn, 1994, 2003; Quinn, Adams, Ken-
nedy, Shettler, & Wasnik, 2003). The reliable decre-
ment in looking time seen here suggests that
infants noticed the common manner of motion in
each familiarization event, and perhaps were even
engaged in a form of categorical processing. Fur-
thermore, the fact that infants younger than
10 months have the ability to discriminate between
the same events used in the present study (Pulver-
man, Golinkoff, et al. 2008; Pulverman, Rohrbeck,
et al. 2008), suggests that success in the present
study is not due to infants’ failure to discriminate
between our familiarization events. Taken together,
these findings suggest that before infants begin to
produce their first verbs they have the ability, at
13–15 months, to detect the invariant manner of
motion over changing paths. Our youngest group
of infants, however, did not show evidence of this
ability.
Why might the youngest infants fail to show evi-
dence of this ability? Even young infants have some
rudimentary abilities to abstract and categorize those
components encoded in other types of spatial terms,
including those lexicalized in spatial prepositions
(Casasola, 2005; Casasola & Cohen, 2002; Casasola,
Cohen, et al., 2003; Casasola, Hohenstein, et al., 2003;
Go
¨
ksun et al., 2009; Lakusta & Landau, 2005; Lakusta
et al., 2007; Pruden et al., in press; Pulverman,
Golinkoff, et al. 2008; Pulverman, Rohrbeck, et al.
2008; Pulverman et al., in press). In research investi-
gating the discrimination of manner and path, 7- to
9-month-olds discriminated changes to a figure’s
manner of motion (using a set of the very same stim-
uli) after repeatedly viewing one single exemplar per-
forming a manner path combination (Pulverman,
Golinkoff, et al., 2008; Pulverman, Rohrbeck, et al.,
2008; Pulverman et al., in press). In the present
study, infants viewed four different exemplars, each
one depicting the same manner across varying
paths, and were asked to discriminate among
changes in manner across multiple exemplars. Only
the oldest infants, the 13- to 15-month-olds, pro-
vided reliable evidence of the ability to abstract the
figure’s manner of motion. Perhaps, then, abstract-
ing an invariant action across several different
dynamic events is just too difficult for infants youn-
ger than 13 months. Our previous research on
infants’ ability to detect an invariant path across
changing manners suggests otherwise. Infants youn-
ger than 13 months show evidence of the ability to
abstract an invariant path across changes in the
figure’s manner of motion (Pruden et al., in press).
984 Pruden, Go
¨
ksun, Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff
While infants do show the ability to form some
dynamic event categories before their first birth-
days, it may be that some semantic components are
easier to represent and detect than others. Recent
neuro-imaging work suggests that different brain
regions are sensitive to changes in path and manner
(Wu, Morganti, & Chatterjee, 2008) and may follow
different maturational timelines (Chatterjee, 2008).
This may be why we see 10- to 12-month-olds
detect changes in path (Pruden et al., in press), but
not manner. Indeed, existing research shows that
infants discriminate and or categorize containment
before support relations, goals before sources, and
figures before grounds (Casasola & Cohen, 2002;
Go
¨
ksun et al., 2009; Lakusta et al., 2007). This
apparent de
´
calage in the abstraction of semantic
components may simply be a reflection of the per-
ceptual saliency of some of these components. For
example, the goals of events appear to draw more
attention than the sources (Lakusta & Landau,
2005; Regier & Zheng, 2007). Similarly, paths may
simply be more salient and draw more attention
than manner. Or perhaps children extract those
components earlier that are more likely to be
expressed frequently in the languages of the world.
Finally, some suggest that the semantic components
labeled by motion verbs and spatial prepositions
may be built from ‘‘conceptual primitives’’ (Man-
dler, 1991, 1992, 2004). According to Mandler
(2004), infants start life with a set of privileged con-
cepts used to make sense of events in the world
and then to package these events for language. The
semantic component, path, is thought to be one of
these privileged concepts, while manner is not.
Knowing where you are going (i.e., path) may be
more important than knowing how you got there
(i.e., manner). In fact, research suggests that young
infants rely on spatiotemporal information, in the
form of locations and paths, to determine an
object’s identity, even in the face of other relevant
cues (i.e., object property or kind information; Xu &
Carey, 1996). Thus, it may simply be the case that
abstracting the figure’s path is easier than abstract-
ing the figure’s manner of motion.
Another explanation for why our youngest
infants failed to show the ability to abstract the
invariant manner of motion is that we made the
task of locating the invariant manner of motion
more difficult by varying other event components
that encode relational information, in this case, the
path of the figure. Perhaps then the diversity of the
paths across our familiarization events was intrigu-
ing to the 10- to 12-month-olds causing them to pay
less attention to the figure’s manner of motion. If
this is the case, then younger infants might succeed
at abstracting the figure’s manner of motion under
conditions in which the manner of motion is made
more salient, while other relational information
such as the path is reduced or removed. We explore
this question in Experiment 2 by examining
whether our youngest age group, the 10- to 12-
month-olds, can abstract the figure’s manner of
motion when additional relational information is
removed. In Experiment 1, a green ball in the center
of the screen served as the external referent against
which the path of the figure’s movement was
defined. In Experiment 2, we examine whether
removing this ground object reduces the external
path relation making the figure’s manner of motion
more salient.
Experiment 2: Does Reducing Extrinsic Relational
Information Help 10- to 12-Month-Olds Abstract
the Invariant Manner of Motion?
Experiment 2 tests whether 10- to 12-month-olds
can abstract the invariant manner of motion under
conditions in which other external relational infor-
mation, here path information, is dampened. In
Experiment 1, infants were presented with com-
plex, dynamic events that included both a manner
intrinsic to the figure paired with extrinsic path
information. In these events, the starfish performed
the same manner of motion paired with four differ-
ent paths. Thirteen-month-olds and older infants
showed evidence of the ability to abstract the
invariant manner of motion across these varying
paths. One possibility for why the youngest infants
tested did not show evidence of this ability is that
they were busy attending to the highly salient rela-
tional information between the figure and the
ground object (i.e., the path changes) and, thus, not
focusing their attention to the invariant manner of
motion.
In real-world events, a figure performing a man-
ner need not always do so with reference to a
ground object. For example, when a child watches
Mommy dance, Mommy is not moving with
respect to any of the objects in the room. Thus, a
manner of motion can be performed against a back-
drop of objects and enclosures without creating a
relation with a specific ground object. In Experi-
ment 1, we created the analog of Mommy (i.e., the
animated starfish) dancing with relation to a chair
(i.e., the green ball). What would happen to the per-
ception of manner if the chair or in our case, the
green ball, were removed? Would infants now
Infants’ Detection of the Invariant Manner of Motion 985
show the ability to abstract the figure’s manner of
motion? Here, we examined whether removing the
ground object reduces the salient path information
and helps infants focus their attention on the man-
ner of motion resulting in the abstraction of the
invariant manner of motion.
In Experiment 2, we omitted the central ground
object (i.e., the green ball), thereby reducing the
extrinsic relational information and allowing the
manner to stand out on its own. While there exists
the possibility that some extrinsic relational infor-
mation may still exist after the removal of the
ground object, (e.g., there is some extrinsic rela-
tional information to be gleaned from the trajectory
of the figure in relation to the screen of the televi-
sion), we believe that removing the ground object
significantly reduces extrinsic relational information.
We hypothesized that without the green ball,
infants would no longer need to process the rela-
tion between the manner and the path the figure
traversed with respect to the ground object. As
manner is an intrinsic movement of the figure and
does not require an external ground object, reduc-
ing the relational information between the figure
and the ground might enhance the detection of the
invariant manner.
Method
Participants
Nineteen 10- to 12-month-olds (M = 11.42,
SD = .73; 11 males, 8 females) made up the final
sample for Experiment 2. Only 10- to 12-month-olds
were included, as older infants already revealed the
ability to abstract the invariant manner of motion.
Five additional 10- to 12-month-olds were excluded
from further analysis because of fussiness (N = 2),
side bias (N = 2), and experimenter error (N = 1).
Stimuli, Procedure, and Coding
Stimuli were identical to those in Experiment 1,
with one key change. The dominant ground object,
the green ball, was removed from all events shown
during Experiment 2, including the events shown
during the salience, familiarization, and test phases.
The procedure and coding for Experiment 2 were
identical to Experiment 1.
Results
Data were examined for suspected outliers (i.e.,
standardized z scores 2 SD). Data from two
infants were removed from their respective analy-
ses because their salience (N = 1) or test phase data
(N = 1) were outliers.
The Salience Phase
No main effects of familiarization condition,
child gender, or any interaction between these vari-
ables were found on the salience phase data
(Fs < 1.15, ps > .41). Further analyses collapsed
across these variables. To evaluate infants’ a priori
preferences for our test events a one-sample t test,
compared to a chance value of .50, was conducted
and revealed that infants did not show a preference
for either event (M = 0.50, SD = .14), t(17) = 0.13,
p > .05, d = 0.06. These analyses suggest infants did
not have any a priori preference for our test events
prior to the familiarization phase.
The Familiarization Phase
A repeated measures ANOVA using the famil-
iarization data showed a significant linear trend,
F(1, 18) = 4.55, p < .05, g
p
2
= .20 (Figure 5; top
graph), suggesting that infants had habituated to
the familiarization stimuli.
The Test Phase: Finding the Invariant Manner in the
Absence of a Ground Ob ject
Preliminary analyses on the test phase data indi-
cated no effects of familiarization condition or
child gender, nor any interactions between these
factors (Fs < 2.86, ps > .14). Further analyses col-
lapsed across these variables. A paired-samples t
test on infants’ looking preferences from the two
test trials showed that infants looking preferences
from first test trial (M = 0.57, SD = .14) did not sig-
nificantly differ from that of the second test trial
(M = 0.62, SD = .22), t(17) = 0.95, p > .05, d = 0.28.
Next, we examined whether removing the domi-
nant ground object made the manner of action
more salient to infants, allowing them to abstract
the invariant manner of motion. To examine
whether infants had a significant preference for
either event during the test phase, a one-sample t
test was conducted on the novelty-preference
scores collapsed across the two test trials. This test
revealed that infants showed a significant prefer-
ence for the novel, out-of-category event during
the test phase (M = 0.60, SD = .15), t(17) = 2.90,
p < .05, d = 1.41.
Finally, a post hoc contrast of those infants par-
ticipating in Experiment 2 to those 10- to 12-month-
986 Pruden, Go
¨
ksun, Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff
olds participating in Experiment 1 was conducted
to determine whether infants in these two studies
were performing differently. A independent-sam-
ples t test revealed that the group of infants in
Experiment 2 significantly differed in their novelty-
looking preferences when compared with those of
the same age in Experiment 1, t(44) = 2.56, p < .05,
d = 0.74. Figure 5 (bottom graph) shows infants’
looking times during the test phase for 10- to 12-
month-olds in both Experiments 1 and 2.
Discussion
In Experiment 2, we dampened extrinsic rela-
tional information by removing the ground object
against which the starfish moved. The question we
raised was when path information is reduced, would
infants be more likely to pay attention to and ulti-
mately abstract the figure’s manner of motion? If
infants have difficulty processing relational informa-
tion, then removal of the dominant ground object,
the green ball, should not only reduce the relational
complexity of the event but also increase the
salience of the manner of motion. Results showed
that removal of the dominant ground object did help
10- to 12-month-olds abstract the invariant manner.
Ten- to 12-month-old infants now showed a signifi-
cance preference for the novel, out-of-category event
during the test phase. Furthermore, our results indi-
cated that the test phase looking times from the
infants participating in Experiment 2 were signifi-
cantly different from those 10- to 12-month-olds in
Experiment 1.
We now have evidence that infants younger than
12 months abstract the invariant manner of motion,
but do so under limited conditions. Why were the
infants unable to show evidence of this ability
when the dominant ground object was present? One
possibility is that infants did not notice the manner
of motion because they were paying more attention
to the extrinsic path relation between the figure and
the ground object. If, as Mandler (2004) suggested,
path is a ‘‘conceptual primitive’’ required for learn-
ing about the dynamic world, then infants may
simply be more attuned to the figure’s path than to
the figure’s manner.
Dampening this extrinsic relation, by removing
the dominant ground object, should both reduce
attention to the path, as it theoretically no longer
exists, and likewise, increase attention to the man-
ner. Indeed, the present research and our previous
research on infants’ abstraction of the invariant
path suggest that this is exactly what happens:
Infants are no longer able to abstract the invariant
path (Pruden et al., in press), but are able to
abstract the invariant manner when extrinsic rela-
tional information is dampened.
Yet another possibility is that infants simply had
too much visual information to process given that
the events contained a figure, a ground object, a
path, and a manner. Removing the ground object,
not only eliminated the path relation but also
reduced the amount of visual information infants
needed to process to be successful in making sense
of the events. However, this explanation seems unli-
kely given previous research (Pruden et al., in press)
on infants’ ability to abstract the invariant path
across changing manners of motion. When the
ground object was removed in that study, infants no
longer detected the invariant path. Thus, it is unli-
kely that the successful performance of infants in
our second experiment is the result of merely a
reduction of the amount of visual information. When
Figure 5. Top graph depicts infants’ looking times during the
familiarization trials for 10- to 12-month-olds in Experiment 1
and Experiment 2. The y axis shows average looking time in
seconds. The bottom graphs reveals infants’ looking times
during test trials for those 10- to 12-month-old infants’
participating in Experiment 1 and those infants participating in
Experiment 2. The y-axis depicts the average novelty-preference
scores. Infants participating in Experiment 2, in which the
ground object was removed, looked longer at the novel, out-of-
category event during the test phase.
*p < .05.
Infants’ Detection of the Invariant Manner of Motion 987
reduced visual complexity corresponds to reduced
conceptual complexity—as in the present study—then
infants can apparently detect the invariant compo-
nent in question, the manner of motion.
General Discussion
The research presented here begins to illuminate
when and how infants abstract the invariant man-
ner of motion in nonlinguistic, dynamic events.
Manner is an intrinsic movement determined by the
properties of the figure rather than an extrinsic rela-
tion between the figure and the ground object. The
manner of motion, the way in which a figure
moves, is a semantic component encoded in verbs
across many languages of the world. For example,
English uses a great number of motion verbs that
incorporate the manner of motion (e.g., skipping,
hopping). In two experiments, we provided some of
the first evidence that infants can detect changes in
the type of information found in dynamic events.
Experiment 1 revealed that 13- to 15-month-olds
could abstract the invariant manner across varia-
tions in the figure’s path. Younger infants, 10- to
12-month-olds, did not show evidence of having
this ability. Yet, when in Experiment 2, the domi-
nant ground object was omitted, thereby reducing
the relational complexity of the event, and inciden-
tally increasing the salience of the manner of
motion, these infants were now able to abstract the
invariant manner of motion. These findings, along
with Pulverman, Golinkoff, et al. (2008) and Pulver-
man, Rohrbeck, et al. (2008) study that demon-
strated 7-month-olds could discriminate changes in
single paths and single manners, suggest that
infants under 1 year of age can discriminate
between manners of motion in dynamic events. The
present studies also extend Pulverman and collea-
gues’ findings to show that 13- to 15-month-olds
could detect changes in an invariant manner across
changes in the figure’s path. However, the 10- to 12-
month-olds in the present study only showed suc-
cess in detecting the invariant manner under very
limited conditions, namely, a condition in which the
extrinsic path relation between the figure and the
dominant ground object was deemphasized.
The current findings, along with our previous
research showing that infants can abstract the invari-
ant path across variations in the figure’s manner of
motion by 10–12 months (Pruden et al., in press),
provide additional support for the idea that infants
are capable of paying attention to semantic compo-
nents encoded in spatial prepositions and motion
verbs. Furthermore, the ability to abstract the invari-
ant actions in the face of other changes in the event
suggests that infants may be capable of forming
categories of these actions and semantic components.
Future work will need to explore these categoriza-
tion abilities by asking whether infants can general-
ize these invariant semantic components to other
agents performing them and to perceptually dissimi-
lar exemplars of the category (e.g., cats running,
humans running, cheetahs running).
The present research and that on other semantic
components lexicalized in spatial terms, including
containment, support, source, goal, figure, and
ground (Casasola, 2005; Casasola & Cohen, 2002; Ca-
sasola, Cohen, et al., 2003; Casasola, Hohenstein,
et al., 2003; Go
¨
ksun et al., 2009; Lakusta & Landau,
2005; Lakusta et al., 2007; Pruden et al., in press;
Pulverman, Golinkoff, et al. 2008; Pulverman, Rohr-
beck, et al., 2008; Pulverman et al., in press), suggest
that infants are equipped with those abilities needed
to make sense of the events in their world. That is,
infants have the capabilities to both pay attention to
and form categories of actions and events. These
two skills play a critical role in children’s acquisition
of relational language (Parish-Morris, Pruden, Ma,
Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2010). Children would be
unable to map language they hear to events they
witness without the fundamental ability to detect
the semantic elements that will be packaged in the
motion verbs of their language.
Since this research is among the first to examine
how infants abstract invariant components of
dynamic motion events (also see Pruden et al.,
in press), it leaves us with many unanswered ques-
tions. Research has begun to investigate young
infants’ discrimination of other event components in
dynamic motion events, such as figure and ground
(Go
¨
ksun et al., 2009), and source and goal (Lakusta
et al., 2007), yet no research has explored infants’
detection and categorization of these components
within dynamic events. Infants can form categories
of these types of event components within the con-
text of static events. For example, Bornstein et al.
(2010) find that 6-month-olds can form categories of
figures across different external contexts, or grounds,
in static photographs. But when and how do infants
form categories of figure, ground, source, and goal in
the flow of dynamic events? Do each of these seman-
tic components develop on the same timeline, or are
some more privileged than others in development?
What also remains a mystery is how children’s early
linguistic environment influences both the order
and developmental timeline in which children
acquire the ability to make sense of events. Do chil-
988 Pruden, Go
¨
ksun, Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff
dren raised in cultures in which the language
emphasizes the path, rather than manner of motion,
in verbs (e.g., Spanish) follow the same develop-
mental trajectory as seen in English-learning
infants? Should cross-linguistic research find that
infants from different languages do not vary in
these early abilities then perhaps infants are
equipped to make sense of a world of relations,
even those relations not lexicalized in their ambient
language. Such evidence would suggest that chil-
dren’s early event categories might initially be uni-
versal. However, as children receive more exposure
to their native language, they may become more
sensitive to some aspects of events than others,
resulting in the kinds of semantic distinctions seen
in older children and adults (Go
¨
ksun et al., 2010).
Another promising line of inquiry comes from
recent research in infant speech perception that sug-
gests a link between infants perceptual abilities and
their later language skills (Kuhl, Conboy, Padden,
Nelson, & Pruitt, 2005; Newman, Ratner, Jusczyk,
Jusczyk, & Dow, 2006; Tsao, Liu, & Kuhl, 2004).
Kuhl and colleagues demonstrated a relation
between early phonological discrimination and later
language learning. English-reared 7-month-olds who
were better at discriminating between native and
nonnative contrasts had better language abilities at
30 months of age. This effect extended beyond
vocabulary, with infants not only showing larger
productive vocabularies but also showing longer
mean length of utterance, and increased sentence
complexity. Other research suggests that there are
wide individual differences in the amount of spatial
language children produce (Pruden & Levine, 2011)
and that these differences may actually predict later
cognitive functioning, including children’s later spa-
tial skills (Pruden et al., 2011). These findings sug-
gest that it may be fruitful for future research to
examine the possible link between infants ability to
find the semantic components in events and chil-
dren’s later production of spatial terms. Individual
differences in detecting and categorizing relational
information, including the abstraction of common
manners and paths, may actually predict children’s
later verb and preposition use. The uncovering of
such relations might have important implications for
language delay and disorder.
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Infants’ Detection of the Invariant Manner of Motion 991
    • "The current findings extend the work of Pruden and colleagues (2012, 2013) with animated stimuli by demonstrating that infants can form a category of a figure's manner and path even when performed by a human agent in a realistic setting. Taken together, our results, along with the work of others (Pruden et al., 2012Pruden et al., , 2013), suggest that infants can perceive the event components that will be encoded in the spatial prepositions and motion verbs of their language. Does infants' conceptual knowledge of event components have implications for the acquisition of relational terms? "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Acquiring verbs and prepositions requires categorization of spatial relations. This study examined whether a ground object differentially influences 13- to 15-month-old English-learning infants' categorization of a figure's path (e.g., around; Experiment 1) and manner (e.g., hopping; Experiment 2) of motion in non-linguistic dynamic realistic events. Furthermore, we tested whether categorizing path is "easier" than categorizing manner. Results revealed that infants categorized path only in the presence of a ground object, validating Talmy's definition of path. In contrast, infants categorized manner only in the absence of a ground object. Finally, infants categorizing path showed stronger novelty preferences than those categorizing manner, supporting a primacy of path. Infants showed sensitivity to event components lexicalized in relational terms.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2016
    • "The ability to form categories of these semantic components (e.g., paths, manners) has been hypothesized to be an essential component of mapping language onto events (). Indeed, previous research suggests that infants notice changes in paths and manners by 7 months of age (Pulverman et al., 2008Pulverman et al., , 2013) and form categories of path and manner by 10 to 14 months (Pruden et al., 2012Pruden et al., , 2013). Despite the theoretical significance of examining the long-term effects of perceiving events, no previous studies have assessed infants' ability to form categories of event components and their later knowledge of verbs. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This study probes how individual differences in early event perception predict later verb knowledge. At Time 1, when infants were 13 to 15months of age, they saw videotaped silent scenes performed by a human actor. The goal was to see whether infants could form categories of path (a figure's trajectory with respect to a ground object) and manner (how an action is performed). Infants either saw the same manner (e.g., jogging) taking place across three different paths (around, through, and behind) or saw the same path (e.g., around a tent) taking place across three different manners (running, crawling, and walking). After familiarization, either the path or the manner was changed and visual fixation was monitored using preferential looking. At Time 2, the same children were tested on their comprehension of verbs in a two-choice pointing task showing two simultaneous actions (e.g., running vs. jumping). Success at categorization of path and manner at Time 1 predicted verb comprehension at Time 2, even when taking language knowledge at both time points into account. These preliminary results represent headway in identifying the factors that may contribute to children's language learning. They suggest that skill in categorizing semantic components present in nonlinguistic events is predictive of children's later verb vocabulary.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2016
    • "Crucially, the experiment demonstrated that infants possessed the cognitive abilities required for forming categories of actions, thereby leading to the third question: How did infants achieve categorization of the marching actions? Compared with prior action categorization research (e.g., Pruden et al., 2012), our stimuli were more realistic, using human actors rather than animated events, and were more complex, requiring that infants abstract across multiple paths and multiple actors. To categorize these complex realistic marching actions, infants must distinguish the moving figures from the background. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Action categorization is necessary for human cognition and is foundational to learning verbs, which label categories of actions and events. In two studies using a nonlinguistic preferential looking paradigm, 10- to 12-month-old English-learning infants were tested on their ability to discriminate and categorize a dynamic human manner of motion (i.e., way in which a figure moves; e.g., marching). Study 1 results reveal that infants can discriminate a change in path and actor across instances of the same manner of motion. Study 2 results suggest that infants categorize the manner of motion for dynamic human events even under conditions in which other components of the event change, including the actor’s path and the actor. Together, these two studies extend prior research on infant action categorization of animated motion events by providing evidence that infants can categorize dynamic human actions, a skill foundational to the learning of motion verbs.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2016
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