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Can Toddlers Learn Vocabulary from Television? An Experimental Approach


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This study was inspired by the rise in television targeting toddlers and preverbal infants (e.g., Teletubbies, Baby Mozart). Overall, we investigated if very young children who are in the early stages of language acquisition can learn vocabulary quickly (fast map) from television programs. Using a fast mapping paradigm, this study examined a group (n = 48) of toddlers (15–24 months) and their ability to learn novel words. Utilizing a repeated measures design, we compared children's ability to learn various novel words in 5 different conditions. These included the presentation and identification of a novel word by an adult speaker via live presentation when the toddler was attending (i.e., joint reference), an adult via live presentation when the toddler was not attending, an adult speaker on television, and an edited clip from a children's television program (Teletubbies). Overall, the toddlers were most successful in learning novel words in the joint reference condition. They were significantly less successful in the children's program condition. Furthermore, there was a significant interaction between age and condition on children's performance. Both younger (15–21 months) and older (22–24 months) participants identified the target objects when they were taught the novel word by an adult speaker; however, it appeared that children under the age of 22 months did not identify the target item when they were taught the novel word via the television program.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Media Psychology , 10:41–63, 2007
Copyright © Lawrence Erlbaum A ssociates, Inc.
ISSN: 1521-326 9 print / 1532-785X onlin e
DOI: 10.108/15213260701300931
Can Toddlers Learn Vocabulary from
Television? An Experimental Approach
Wake Forest University
University of Connecticut
This study wa s inspired by the rise in television targeting toddlers
and preverbal infants (e.g. , Teletubbies, Baby Mozart). Overal l,
we investigated if very young children who are in the early stages
of language acquisition can learn vocabulary quickly (fast map)
from television programs. Using a fast mapping paradigm, this
study examined a group (n D 48) of toddlers (15–24 months)
and their ability to learn novel words. Utilizing a repeated mea-
sures design, we compared children’s ability to learn various novel
words in 5 different conditions. These included the presentation
and identification of a novel word by an adult speaker via live
presentation when the toddler was attending (i.e., joint reference),
an a dult via l ive pr esentation when the toddler was not attend-
ing, an adult speaker on television, and an edited clip from a
children’s t elevision program (Teletubbies). Overall, t he toddlers
were most successful in learning novel words in the joint ref-
erence condition. They were significantly less successful i n the
children’s progra m condition. Furthermore, there was a signifi-
cant interaction between age and condition on children’s perfor-
mance. Both younger ( 15–21 months) and older (22–24 months)
participants identified the target objects when they were taught
Address correspondence to Mari na Krcmar, Communication Department, 316 Carswell
Hall, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109. E-mail: krcmarm@wfu.e du
This research was conducted while the first author was an assistant profes s or at the
University of Connecticut.
42 M. Krcmar et al.
the novel word by an adult speaker; however, it appeared that
children under the age of 22 months did not identify the tar-
get item when they were taught the novel word via the television
More than a generation of chi ldre n have grown up watching Sesame Street
and other educational programs. Ample evidence exists that preschoolers ca n
learn sk ills from number reco gnition to new vocabulary wor ds from these
programs (Rice, H uston, Truglio, & Wright, 19 90). However, modern pro-
grams are beginning to target even younger children (, 2003).
Infants are exposed to Baby Einstein (Boccella, 2003) and toddlers watch
Teletubbi es. Given the recent rise in programs targeting toddlers and pre-
verbal children, little research has investiga ted the impact of television on
these youngsters (see DeLoache, 2000; Bar r & Hayne , 1999; a nd Schmitt &
Anderson, 2002, for some notable exceptions). Therefore, it is becoming in-
creasingly important to ask what impact exposure to television at an early
age has on the language development of children. Although this study will
only address one aspect of development (initial wor d acquisition), it is im-
portant to determine what factors are most influentia l during this period of
language development.
Most toddlers follo w a predictable sequence as they dev elop language.
At around 12 months of age, they begin to produce their first words. By
about 24 months, children are using 50 or more words to express them-
selves. From this point, word acquisition continues at a rapid pace as they
experience what has been called the vocabulary spurt (Goldfield & Reznick,
1996). Children can learn up to five new words a day during this period of
devel opment (Bloom & Markson, 1998). It is thought that many factors influ-
ence children ’s ability to learn new words. These factors range from interac-
tive mediums such a s caregiver-child communication to passive ones such as
television (e.g., Baldwin, 1994; Bedore & Leonard, 2000; Costa, Wilkinson,
McIlvane, & Gracas de Souza, 20 01; Kay Raining Bird & Chapman, 1998;
Naigles & Hoff-G insberg, 1998; Rice, 1983 ; Rice & Haigh t, 1986; Tomasello,
1992; Wilkinson, Dube, & McIlv ane, 1996). The purpose of this study was to
investigate factors that may influence vocabu lary acquisition in a group of
young children ranging in age from 15 to 24 months and to examine the use
of television as a medium for teaching novel words to toddlers. Although
research has examined the influence of television on children ’s vocabular y
learning, little research has examined the impact on children in the early
stages of language acquisition. This study utilizes a fast-mapping approach
to test toddlers’ abilit y to learn a novel word in one of five conditions: via
an adult speaker on television, via a television program targeting toddlers,
via an a dult in vivo, via an adult in vivo with a distraction, and in a no word
cont rol condition.
Learn Vocabulary From Television 43
Although it is clear that young children can learn a variety of behaviors from
television, such as aggressive acts (e.g., Huesmann & Miller, 1994) and letter
and number recognit ion (Rice et al., 1990), th ere is still some debate regard-
ing th e effectiv eness of television in teaching lan guage to young children. For
example, prescho olers between the ages of 2 and 5 y ears have been shown
to acquire new words by watchi ng television (Rice, 1983, 1984). Howev er,
it appears that childr en do not effectively learn grammar from television
(Selnow & Bettinghaus, 1982). Furthermore, research has not adequately fo-
cused on the ability of children to acquire language from television during
the early mont hs of life when the foundations for communication are being
built. There are several reasons for this lack of research. First, i t is more dif-
ficult and time consuming to te st very young children. Second, until t he last
decade, television was designed mainly for children who were already ver-
bal. Thus, it lacked the external validity requ ired to ask what effect television
had on preverbal children.
One frequentl y studied program is Sesame Street. Sesame Street is the
longest running children’s television program, havin g been on the air since
1969 (Bogatz & Ball, 1970). Targeting preschoolers between 3 and 5 yea rs of
age, this prog ram was origi nally designed to help prepare children for school.
It taught letter recognition, numbers, and simple skills such as matching and
sight reading of single syllable words (Ball & Bogatz, 1970). S imilar pro-
grams in the 1970s an d 1980s also targeted preschool ers and young school
age children. Programs such as the Electric Company, or 3,2,1, Contact at-
tracted children as young as 3, and in some cases, as old as 12 (Corder-Bolz,
1980). However, the 1990s ushered in new programs targeting even younge r
children. As a result, children younger than 12 months spend an average of
80 min per day in fron t of a screen and 2-year -olds spend approxi mately
2 hr (Rideout & Hammel, 2006 ).
One example of a program t hat tar gets very young ch ildren is Tele-
tubbies. It features four colorful n onhuman characters with telev ision sets
nestled in their midriffs. The program targets viewers as young as 12 months
of age. Accordi ng to the program’s Web site, the Teletubbies speak a play
language that ‘‘accurately mirrors the early speech of a one-year-old child’’
(, 200 3). In addition, an adult narrator who uses grammatically
correct speech occasionally provides voiceovers. With the tremendous pop-
ularity of programs such as Teletubbies th at target very yo ung children, it has
become important to under sta nd what very young chi ldren learn from these
programs. For example, we might ask if novel words can be acquired from
television by this age group.
When toddlers hear child-directed speech from ei ther an adult caretaker
or from television, it may be suffi cient for them to learn new words. However,
it is also possible tha t the visually based world of television with its rapid pace
44 M. Krcmar et al.
does not offer th e proper input for initial word learning to occur. In addition,
Troseth (2003) sugg ested that 2-year-ol d children cannot fi nd a toy when they
have just watched it being hidde n via a video monitor; howev er, they can
readily find it when they watch through a window . Therefore, 2-year-olds
may be incapable of accura tely associating the two-dimen sional world of
television with their three-dimensional experiences. In other words, due to
either the fast pacing of the programs or the limitations of the toddler’s ability
to understand te levision, it is possible that television cannot teach word s to
this age group. Never theless, it does appear that children young er than 2
attend to television (Linebarger & Walker, 200 5). Despite th is, it is unclear if
they comprehend what is seen on television. Due to the paucity of research
on two year olds’ comprehension of televisio n, it is necessary to con sider
the research on slightly older children and speculate how youn ger children
might differ.
Quite a bi t is know n about preschoolers’ attention to and comprehe nsion of
television stimuli. Considerably less is know n about how much toddlers un-
der sta nd television (see Schmitt & Anderson, 2002, for an exception). Over-
all, preschool ers are quite attentive to television (Anderson, Fie ld, Collins,
Lorch, & Nathan, 1985), paying attention to it (i.e., eyes on screen) even in
the presence of attractive toys or other playmates (Alwitt, Anderson, Lorch,
& Levin, 1980). Furthermore, children are mor e visually attentive when the
stimulus includes bright colors, fast pacing, and freque nt changes i n the vi-
sual stimulus. Preschoolers are also attentive to the auditory aspects of tele-
vision stimulus (i.e., singi ng voices) tha t may rejuvenate the flagging visual
attention of a young viewer.
Until recently, very little was known about the at tention of even younger
children to television. Linebarger and Walker (2005) utilized a longitudinal
survey design to track family communication and television v iewin g in a sam-
ple of 6- to 30-month-old toddlers. On average, parents reported tha t their
children began to pay attention to televi sion at approximately 9 months of
age. Other research has demonstra ted that by the age of 2, children are pay-
ing attention to both programs and commercials, although for almost ha lf of
their viewing time, they are also engaged in a secondary activity (Schmitt,
Woolf, & Anderson, 2003). Among children of this age, however, it is un-
likely that plot devices (such as scary music to indicate that a frightening
event will occur soon) hold their attention, beca use evidence suggests that
even slightly older children (e.g., 4-year-olds) have a poor under sta nding of
them (Beentjes, 2001). Instead , attention is probably driven by formal fea-
tures of t he medium. Berlyne (1960) initially identified ‘‘automatic’’ attention
eliciting characteristics including intensit y, contrast, change , and movement.
Learn Vocabulary From Television 45
Because television includes these features, even infants att end to the screen
to some extent (Barr & Hayne, 1999). Therefore, it appears that very young
children, be ginn ing at approximately 9 months of age, do attend to televi-
sion. However, it is unclear wh at they comprehend and lea rn fro m it.
Again, research on preschool ers may provide a starting point for our
understanding. Among 3- to 5-year-olds, attention and comprehension are
relat ed, but not in a way t hat indicates that more attention automatically leads
to greater comprehension. For example, ch ildren who are visually atte ntive
(measured by time looking at a t elevsion scr een) have better visual compre-
hension and reca ll (Rollandelli, Wright, Huston, & Eakins, 1991). Similarly,
audi tory attention is positively related to comprehension and recall of au -
ditory material (Anderson & Field, 1983). This is often taken to mean that
attention guides comprehension. However, this notion has been repeatedly
challenged (e.g., Lorch, Anderson, & Le vin, 1979). Rather than attention pre-
dicting comprehension, it appears that the relationship is somewhat circular.
That is, in itial attention is necessary to ensure comprehension; however, con-
tinued comprehension is neede d for furthe r attenti on to occur (Lorch et al.,
1979). Specifically, when either an audio track becomes less comprehensi-
ble (e.g., Spani sh language for non-Spanish speakers) or a visual stimuli de-
grades (e.g., becomes snowy), atten tion d ecreases. This decrease in attenti on
is then followed by a decre ase in comprehension. When material becomes
comprehensible again, attention in creases and comprehension returns to its
previous lev els. This suggests that attention and comprehension are code-
pendent, with one offe ring feedback to the other. Among preschoolers, at-
tention continues as long as the stimulus remains comprehen sible. However,
it is worth noting that both lack of comprehension and habituation can de-
crease attentio n. Wh en a program has be en watched so many times that it
no longer of fers a challenge to preschoolers’ comprehension , attenti on may
also flag (Rice, Huston, & Wright, 198 2).
In terms of younger children, w hen comprehension may be quite low,
it is unclear how attention and comprehension are related. Is it lik ely that,
for toddlers, like their preschool counterparts, attention and co mprehension
are somewhat circular and at least some comprehension is necessary for at-
tention? Or, is there reason to believe that attention is due solely to exciting
visual stimulus witho ut any real comprehension? Evidence from studies on
working memory may offer some insigh t. This re search suggests that very
young children (less than 30 months) may have difficulty preserving multiple
forms of input such as music, v isual stimuli, and language when they are pre -
sented simultaneously (e.g., Case, Midian Kurland , & Goldberg, 1982; Fisch,
McCann Brown, & Cohen, 2001; Lee Swanson, 1996). Even with high levels
of attention, the processing system may become overtaxed. As a result, infor-
mation is lost from working memory before it can be processed and stored in
long-term memory. Neverthele ss, attention can be maintaine d with changes
in the stimulus. Parents may help children maintain attention by highl ighting
46 M. Krcmar et al.
relevant infor mation by using both joint reference and child-di rected speech
during parent–child interactio ns. These optimal learning situations may in-
crease the probability that information will be stored in long-term memory .
In the case of television v iewin g, toddlers may enjoy watchi ng t elevision
and may attend to it due to the consisten t chang es in the visual and auditory
stimulus. However, they may be unsure just what, in the milieu, to focus on.
If this is the case, a ttent ion and comprehension may be unrelated unti l some
amount of stimulus comprehension, perhaps provided by other so urces, is
Fast mapping is a phenomenon that has been used to describ e chi ldren’s
rapid acquisition of words (e.g., Baldwin, 1994; Bedore & Leonard, 2000;
Bloom & Markson, 1998; Cary & Bartlett, 1978; Goldfiel d & Reznick, 1996;
Kay Raining Bird & Chapman, 1998; Wilk inson et al., 1996). In short, it refers
to the idea that after only one exposure to a novel word children are able
to hypothesize its meaning from the context it wa s heard and can under-
stand that word at a later point in time (e.g., Bloom & Markson, 1998; Kay
Raining Bir d & Chapman, 1998; Wilkinson et al., 1996). Toddlers typically
demonstrate this by selecting the corr ect object, one that th ey previously
‘‘fast-mapped’’ from an array of unfamilia r objects. Children as young as
13 mon ths have demonstrat ed this ability . For example, Kay Raining Bird
and Chapman (1998) found that toddlers between 13 and 16 months w ere
able to learn th e name of novel objects following only four repeti tions of that
word, althoug h many learned after only one. They concluded that relatively
few word repetitions were necessary for young children to develop an initial
representation of a word’s meaning.
Although youn g children can rapidly acquire the meaning of novel
words, it is still unclear how they are able to accomplish this. One way
that this may occur is throu gh children’s use of pragmatics, or social trans-
actions, associated with the lear ning environment (Wilkinson et al., 1996).
For word learn ing to occur, the caregiver must provide the child with highly
salient (i.e., child-dire cted speech) and varie d opportunities for the child
to associ ate the novel word with a particular object (e.g., Baldwin, 1994;
Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, Mervis, Frawley, & Parillo, 1995; Naigles, Fowler, &
Helm, 1993; Naigles & H off-Ginsberg, 1998). I t is important that the child
is focused on a particular novel object as the caregiver names it. Baldwin
(1994) re ported that children with larger vocabularies h a d mothers who we re
more likely to use jo int reference when labeling an object than children with
lower vocabularies. This joint referen ce en sures that competing information
such as b ackground noise or extraneous visual infor mation d oes not int erfere
with the child’s focus during word learning. This is importan t for young chil-
Learn Vocabulary From Television 47
dre n at the beginning stages of language development. It is thought that this
pairing of both verbal and visual information provides an integrated repre-
sentation of the caregiver’s intended message (Langton & Bruce, 2000). This
allows children to filter out extraneous information and focuses them on the
relevant information. In the case of language acquisition, the object being
labeled becomes the focus of attention for both the caregiver an d the child.
Theref ore, it is likely that joint att ention on an object, or joint-referencing,
can help in children’s acquisition of a novel word. The refore, we predict that
H1: More toddlers will learn novel words when participating in adult –child
interactio ns with joint reference than when participating in adult–child
interactio ns where the adult and child are focused on different obje cts.
In addition, and as argued earlier, children’s programs may in fact of-
fer too much stimulation to be comprehensible to toddl ers. Furthermore,
because television as a medium cannot attune and adjust to the specific ver-
bal needs of a child, as an adult is apt to do, it is possible that children ’s
programs are not ideal as language teachers. Therefore,
H2: More toddlers will learn novel words when participating in adult –child
interactio ns with joint reference than when wor ds are int roduced through
a television prog ram.
Despite differences in performance across the conditions listed, it is
likely that attention to the television pro gram will be high. Recall that the
vivid fo rmal features attract a ttention somewhat automatically even for very
young children (Berlyne, 1960). Therefore,
H3: Children will be more attentive to a television when shown segments of
the children’s program in comparison to a video of an adult introducing
and playing with objects.
What will the relationship between attent ion and comprehension be?
On one hand, attention i n preschoolers is positively related to co mprehen-
sion and learning. On the other hand, we have argued t hat high attention i s
somewhat aut omatic and may be unrelated to comprehension and learning
in toddlers. Although the bright colors and high pitched music that is char-
acteri stic of children’s programs may help gain the attention of the child, it
is not clear that this level of stimulation is optimal for learning. Specif ically,
the child must be able to focus on a single relevant piece of in for mation and
not be distracted by extraneous inf ormation. Therefore, although attention
may aid in the learning of novel words from t he program, it is not clear that
this will occur. Therefore, we ask,
48 M. Krcmar et al.
R1: I s there an in teraction between attention and word exposure en viro n-
ment, such that the most learning occu rs among children with hig h at -
tention to the stimulus and least learning o ccurs when there is little
Because it is unclear in this study if greater at tention on the part of
tod dler s is indicati ve of greater comprehension overall, or simply an artifact
of the vivi d formal features, we ask if a more global measure of comprehen-
sion, such as vocabular y size, ca n predict word learni ng across conditions.
In other words, children with larger vocabu laries may be able to bet ter pro-
cess the narrator in the Teletubbies and o ther similar prog rams. This larger
vocabulary may then aid in children’s ability to follow the di alogue and to
learn the nov el word. Furthermore, as children age, they may become better
at focusing on the relevant stimulus, making the adult speaker even more
beneficial as compared to childre n’s programs. Theref ore, we might ask,
R2: Will there be an i nteraction betw een vocabula ry size and word exposure
environ ment on learning across the different con ditions?
R3: Will there be an i nteraction between age and word exposure environ-
ment on learni ng across the conditions?
This study ut ilized a repeated measure design, including five learning trials,
rotated to control for order effects: via an adult speaker on television, via a
television program targeting toddlers, via an adult in vivo , and via an adult
in-vivo with a distraction. An additional con trol trial, via video monitor, was
utilized to insu re the child’s ability to ide ntify a re al object initially seen on a
monitor. The age of the child in months, parental report of child’s vocabulary
and attention to the screen (when appropriate) wer e also measured . The
main dependent variable of interest was the child’s ability to corre ctly choose
from an array of objects, indicating learn ing of a novel word d uring the
teaching trial.
The participants for this study were 48 typically developing toddlers r anging
in age from 15 to 24 months (M D 20.47, SD D 2.78). Two children w ere
omitted from the study because they wer e unwilling to complete the exper-
imental tasks. Of the remaining 46 participants, 18 were girls and 2 8 were
boys. Accordin g to parental report, all of the children had normal hearing
Learn Vocabulary From Television 49
and vision, and had a negative history of medical or neuromotor difficul ties.
In addition, all children were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but were
being exposed to English as their primary language at home. Children were
excluded from participation if the pri mary language spoken at home was
not English. All the children were recruited from daycare centers locate d
in Northeast Connecticut a nd all parti cipating children’s parents signed a
consent form approved by the University Institu tional Review Board.
The parents were asked to fill out the Language Development Survey
(LDS: Rescorla, 1989) prior to their ch ild’s participation in the experiment.
There were several reasons for using the LDS. First, it pro vided informa-
tion about the chil dren’s expressive vocabularies and general rate of word
acqui sition. Second, this info rmation coul d be used to determine if the partic-
ipants were ach ieving developmental milestones at a normal rate for chil dren
within t his age ran ge, thus excluding chil dren w ho may be at risk for lan-
guage impairment. The ch ildren produced betwe en 2 and 295 words (M D
117.96, SD D 10 7.27). All children were within normal limits for vocabulary
devel opment.
The experiment was completed in a quiet testing roo m at the University of
Connecticut. The sessions lasted between 20 and 25 min. Before the exper-
iment began, the experimenter (the second author) and the toddler playe d
with age appropriate toys. The purpose of this warmup period was to fa-
miliarize the toddler with the experimenter and the testing ro om. Once the
child was comfortable with th e experimenter , the child was seated on the
parent’s lap at an adult-sized table that was placed in front of a 19-i n. co lor
television monitor. The television monitor was at the child’s eye level, ap-
proximately 4 ft away. The experimente r sat at the table 90 degrees to the
left of the child. A graduate assistant sat ninety degrees to the right of the
child and across the table f rom the experimenter. The assistant’s role was to
entertain the child between the experimental conditio ns and to distract the
child when necessary.
Before the experiment al conditions were administered, th e children
completed three practice trials using familiar objects (e.g., horse, pig, car ,
truck). The purpose of the practice trials was to ensure that the chil dren
understood the ex perimental task. The experimenter placed thre e familiar
objects on the table, naming each item as i t was set in front of the child.
Once all three objects were placed on the table, the experimenter asked
the child to i dent ify one of the familiar objects by using either a command
or qu estion (e.g., Which one is the piggy?). Verbal praise was used as re-
inforcement when the chi ld ident ified the correct toy. If the child did n ot
respond, the question or command was repeated a second or third time. All
46 children pointed to the o bjects n amed during the practice trials.
50 M. Krcmar et al.
Next, each of the experimenta l trials was run. Trial orde r was rotated
to control for order effects. All experimental sessions wer e video taped and
coded at a later ti me to d etermine whether the child was attendi ng during the
exposure of the novel words, to time the children’s atten tion to the video
trials, and to code for reliabi lity. The camera was seated on a tripod and
located to the righ t of the television. The camera was focused o n the ch ild’s
upper body and face so t hat the experimente r cou ld determine to which
direction the child’s attention was focused and the objects to which the
child pointed. Prior to i nitiating the experiment, the parents were instr ucted
not to assist the child with identifying the objects by pointing or naming
them. However, the parents were told t hat they could hold out their hand
to receiv e the requested object if the experimente r said, ‘‘Give the _______
to mommy.’’
Stimulus Materials
Target and distracter items. The experimental items consisted of 25 ob-
jects that the children might have seen previously but were unlikely to know
the na mes. The objects were placed into five groups with five objects per
group. For each grou p, one object al ways served as the targe t to whi ch a
novel word was taught. The other f our objects served as distract ers. Five
different nonsense words were used to label the target objects. They were
composed of conso nants and vowels that develop early in children’s lan-
guage and consisted of a CVC syllable shape. The words used were sas,
doot, keeg, bem, and mope. For each participant, th e nonsense words were
randomly assigned to the wor d learning conditions. For example, in the
joint reference condition, sas would be used to label the t arget object for
one child, then another child might hear doot for the target object, and so
forth. The t arget objects and distracters used for each condition can b e seen
in Table 1.
Videos and in vivo stimuli. Five experimental conditions corresponding
to each object set we re included in the study. The five experimental con-
ditions were l abeled as follows: (a) adult in video, (b) children’s pro gram,
(c) joint reference, (d) discrepant reference, and (e) no word. The ch ild was
exposed to three video (adult in video, childr en’s program, no word) and
TABLE 1 Novel Object Stimuli
Condition Target object Distracter objects
Adult in video Plant sp rayer Flashlight, pot holder, candle, spatula
Television program Periscope Basting brush, coaster, coat hanger, picture frame
Joint reference Note paper clip Fridge magnet, tea towel, canister, spo on holder
Discrepant reference Whisk Coaster, dishwasher sponge, goblet, tape measure
No word Feather duster Soup ladle, can opener, yarn spool, coat hanger
Learn Vocabulary From Television 51
two direct int eraction (joint reference, discrepant reference) conditions. In
two of the video cond itions, objects and their associated novel wo rds were
introduced to the child ren using the televi sion monitor. In the third v ideo
condition, the children were shown an object, but no word was paired with
the object. In the direct interaction conditions, objects and their associated
novel words were introduced directly by the experimenter using both joint
reference and discrepant referen ce. The experimental condi tion s were pre-
sented in random order to each child.
Each condition consisted of a teaching and testing phase. Duri ng the
teaching phase, the target object was presented to the child and labeled five
times within a 3-min period. A neutral sentence frame was used t o label the
objects (e.g., Her e is a sas. See the sas.). The testing phase w as admini stered
30 sec after the completion of the teaching phase. The child was then asked
to identify the labeled object (e.g., Show me t he sas, or Give the sas to
mommy). Children were credited fo r word-learning if they i dent ified the
object labeled during the teaching phase of the task.
Adult in video condition. The children were shown a video segment
of an adul t (the second author) playing with five objects (plant sprayer,
flashlight, pot holder, candle, and spatula). The video segment consisted of
the adult seated behind a table. The adult removed the objects from a drawer
in the table one at a time and held them for approximately 2 sec before they
were placed on the table in full view of th e camera. The adult picked u p
each object and placed it back on the table at least once. During the le ngth of
the video segment, the adult picked up the target object (plant sprayer) and
named it using a novel word (e.g., Oh here is a doo t) five times at random
intervals. At the end of the video segment, the tape was stopped and a blank
screen appeared on the television monit or. The child’s attention was drawn
to the experimenter by saying, ‘‘Look at the toys I have.’’ One at a time, the
experiment er removed the same five objects from a box and placed them
on the table in front of the child. The child was given 30 sec to examine
and play with the objects befo re the experimenter asked the child t o f ind
the target obje ct using the novel w ord introduced in the video (e.g., Give
me the doot). The experimenter ga ve the child verbal praise (e.g., Yeah,
you did it) for pointing to or handing any object to the exper imenter. The
response was score d as correct onl y if the chi ld identified the plant sprayer.
If the child did not respond, the experimenter gave th e child another verbal
prompt. If the child still did not respond, the experimenter sco red the item
as no r esponse and administer ed the next experimental item. The test phase
was identical across all the conditions.
Television program condition. The children were shown a 3-min video
segment of the Teletubbies telev ision program. The video consisted of several
sections from an episode of the Teletubbies program edited together. Other
than editing for length, the visual material w as unchanged fro m t he original
material. In the clip, three of the sections contained a clip where a periscope
52 M. Krcmar et al.
emerged from t he ground. As the periscope emer ged, the experimenter’s
voice was dubbed into the soundtrack to provid e a novel word (e.g., Oh
her e i s a keeg). It is relevant that the voiceover was designed to be both
similar to the actual v oiceover used in the children’s program in t erms of
pacing, tempo, and pitch. In addition, the voiceover was similar to the other
conditions. This is because the same person was used for the children’s
program voi ceover and for other cond itions. In total, the novel word was
used five times in conjunction with the appearan ce of the periscope (target
object). At the end of the video segment, the tape was stopped and a bla nk
screen appeared on the monitor. The child’s attention was drawn to the
experiment er by saying, ‘‘Look at t he toys I have.’’ The test phase was then
Joint reference condition. The experimenter obtained the child’s atten-
tion by calling the child by name or saying, ‘‘Lo ok, I have some toys.’’ The ex-
perimenter removed five objects (paper clip, refrigerator magnet, tea towel,
canister, and spoon holder) from a box one at a time and placed them on the
table in front of the child. The child was shown the objects in a way identical
to the adult in video cond ition. Howev er, a novel word was produced only
when the child was at tending to th e target object. Following the teaching
phase, all th e objects were rearranged on t he ta ble in a random order and
the child was given 30 more sec to examine the objects. The testing phase
was then conducted.
Discrepant ref erence condition. The experimen ter obtai ned the child’s
attention by calling the child by name or saying, ‘‘Look, I have some to ys.’’
The presentation of ob jects was identical to the joint reference condition
except that, while the child examined the objects, the graduate assistant
distra cted the chil d by shaking a toy dog that made a whining sound. While
the child’s attention was focused on the to y dog, the experimenter picked
up the targe t object (whisk ) and named th e target object using a novel word
(e.g., I have a mope). The targe t object was labeled randomly five times
during the 3-min period while the child was attending to the toy puppy. The
testing phase w as then conducted.
No word condition. The no word condition was desig ned to de termine
whether the children were a ble to associat e an object seen on t elevision
with an object in the real world. The chil dren wer e shown a 60-sec video
segment of an adult (the second author) playin g with a target object (feather
duster). The vid eo consisted of the adult seated behind a table while holding
and moving the target object across the tab le in a brushing motion. The
target object was always in view durin g the entire video clip. The adult
did not speak dur ing the video clip. After the vid eo played for 1 min, the
experiment er paused the video so that the feather duster appeared in a
still mode on the television monit or. The child’s attent ion was drawn to
the experimenter by saying, ‘‘Look at the t oys I ha ve.’’ The experimenter
removed five objects (feather duster , ladle, can opener, yarn spool, a nd
Learn Vocabulary From Television 53
hanger) one at a time from a box and placed them on th e table in front of
the child. The target object was the feather duster an d the four other ite ms
served as distra cters. The child was given 30 sec to examine and play with
the objects. The experimenter requested th at th e child find the target object
(e.g., Give me this one), while pointing to the feather duste r on the television
monitor. The experi menter gav e the child verbal praise for pointing to or
handing any object to the experimenter. A correct response was given if the
child identified the feather duster.
Word learning. Word learning was scored as correct by th e experi-
menter if the child select ed the correct object from the object array. Int er-
rater reliability was determined by having an independent observer examine
the children’s responses to the learning trials. Four toddlers’ experimental
sessions were randomly selected and viewed by an undergraduate student .
The student reviewed the video tapes from these experimental sessions a nd
reco rded the children’s responses to the e xperimenter’s requ est for an object
using the novel words. The student’s observations were compared to th ose
of the exper imenter. The exper imenter and the o bserver demonstrated good
reliability (kappa D .84) agreement in their judgments of which item toddlers
Attention. Two measures of attention were recorded. First, during the
experiment al trials for the joint-reference and discr epant reference condi -
tions, the experimenter determined if the child was att ending or not and
waited for the correct moment to demonstrate a nd name the object. Using
the video tapes of the experimental sessions, a gradua te student and an
undergraduate stud ent independen tly assessed children’s attention. Aga in,
reliability was good (kappa D .85). Second, duri ng the television trials (adult
in video and children’s program) attention to the television monitor was
timed and the proportion of t ime that childr en spent watching the moni-
tor was assessed by one graduate student and one undergraduate assistant.
Again, reliability was good (kappa D .85).
First, to test children’s ability to perform the task, we asked them to select
an object that they saw on the television screen from an array of objects
presented to them when no words were used to label that object (no word
condition). Overall, children in the no word con dition could perform the
task (M D .78, SD D .42). Therefore, children between the ages of 15–24
month s are able to associate an object on the television screen with one
54 M. Krcmar et al.
in the real world. That is, they could move be tween two-dimensional and
three-dimensional representations.
Hypotheses 1 and 2
Next, we tested the eff ect of condition on children’s abili ty to select the cor-
rect object. Because the experiment was conducted as a repeated measures
design, we used a repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test
the main effect of condition, over a ll. Despite the use of a dich otomous de-
pendent variable, repeated measures ANOVA is both more conservative and
accounts for within-subje ct correlations, making it an appropriate analysis in
this case. Overall, there wa s a main effect for con dition on children’s w ord
learning, F (1, 41) D 13.25, p < .05,
D .08. Hypothesis one had predicted
that more children would perform significantly better in the joint reference
condition as compared to the discrepant refer ence condition and this was
supported. I n the joint reference condition, children chose the correct object
approximately two thirds of the time (M D .67, SD D .47) as compared to
about 40 % in the discrepant refe rence condition (M D .43, SD D .50) a nd
this difference was significa nt (p < .05). We also predicted that children in
the join t reference condi tion would do bette r than the children’s progra m
condition. This difference was also sig nificant (p < .05) with participants in
the children’s program condi tion performing more poorly than they had in
any oth er condition (M D .40, SD D . 49). Furthermore , children in the adult
in video condition, responded cor rectly about half the time (M D .53, SD D
50). Although no predictions were made regar ding the comparison between
performance in the children’s program condition and per formance in the
adul t in video conditio n, this difference was also significant (p < .05), indi-
cating th at the television itself did not seem to cause the diff iculties for the
children. Rather, it appeared that the children had difficulty learning from
the children’s program. In sum, learning from the children’s program was
similar to learning in t he discre pan t reference condition and learning from
an adult speaker on television was more similar to learnin g in the live joint
reference condition.
Hypothesis 3
In addition to asking about childre n’s performance in the various conditions,
we al so investigated the role of attentiveness in the v arious conditions and
its impact on word learni ng. We predicted that children would be more
attentive to the ch ildren’s prog ram condition th an they would to the on-
screen adult (adult in video condition). A paired sample t test reveal ed that
this hypothesis was not supported, t (44) D .76, p > .05. Ch ildren attended to
the children’s program 85.62% (SD D 13.01) of the duration of the clip and
attended to the clip of the adult speaker 83.60% (SD D 19.08) of the ti me.
Learn Vocabulary From Television 55
Theref ore, despite its vivid formal features, children were not more attentive
to the children’s program than they were to the on-screen adult speaker.
Last, we asked three research questions regar ding the intera ction be-
tween condition and (a) attention, (b) vocabul ary size, and (c) age on chil-
dre n’s performance. For the se analyses, we first conducted a median split
on the variable of interest (e.g., att ention, vocabulary size, age), then used
that variable as a between sub jects factor and used cond ition as the within
subjects factor in a repeated measures ANOVA.
Research Question 1
This question asked if there was an interactio n between attention and con-
dition. Recall that we measured attention twice, once for the adult in video
condition and once for the children’s program. Therefore, we u tilized a me-
dian split on ea ch attention variable and identified the children watching
the adult on television a s low or high in attent ion to the ad ult, and children
watching the childre n’s program as low or hi gh in a ttent ion to the children’s
program. This r esulted in four groups. We th en utilized t tests as a fairly
conservative test. Performan ce on the fast mapping task was signi ficantly
higher (p < .05) for children who were highly attentive to the vi deot aped
adul t speaker (M D .65, SD D .49) as compared to children who had low
attention t o the children’s progr am (M D .2 9, SD D .49), low attention to
the adu lt speaker (M D .41, SD D .51 ), or high attention to the children’s
program (M D .48, SD D .51). Ther efore, it appears that a ttent ion to the adult
speaker is more beneficial than attention to the children’s program.
Research Questions 2 and 3
Our second and th ird research questions asked if there was an interaction
between condition and (a) vocabulary size and (b) child age on performance.
To answer these questions, we used the dichotomized vo cabulary and th e
dichotomized age variables (between-subject), along with condition (within-
subject) and tested performance. We ra n one repeated measures ANOVA
to address both questions simultaneously. First, conce rning vocabular y size,
we found a main effect for condition, F (3, 37) D 3.51, p < .05,
D .08.
There was also a significant interaction between condition and vocabulary
size, F(3, 37) D 2.43, p D .05,
D .06. Specifically, pairwise comparisons
showed that children with high vocabular ies did significantly better than their
low vocabulary counterparts across all conditions, except the joint referen ce
condition. In the joint reference condition, childre n learned equally well
regardless of their vocabulary level (p > .05). Interestingly, children with low
vocabularies did as well in the joint reference condition as those with high
vocabularies who watched th e childre n’s program (see Table 2 for means
and standard deviations).
56 M. Krcmar et al.
TABLE 2 Means and (Standard Deviation) for Condition by Vocabulary
and by Age on Word Learning (N D 43)
Vocabulary Age
Adult on video .53 .50
Low vo cabu lary .21
.48 Younger .50 .47
High vocabulary .76
.46 Older .55 .50
Discrepant reference .43 .50
Low vo cabu lary .24
.44 Younger .40 .43
High vocabulary .59
.50 Older .43 .39
Joint reference .67 .47
Low vo cabu lary .57
.51 Younger .52 .50
High vocabulary .77
.43 Older .93
Television program .40 .49
Low vo cabu lary .24
.44 Younger .23
High vocabulary .59
.50 Older .62
Note. N D 43. Pairwise comparisons were only conducted for all pairs within a
column . Different su perscripts reflect a significant diffe rence (p < .05) only within
that column.
indicate statistically diffe rent means in the table.
In terms of the dichotomized age variable, approximately ha lf (N D
20) were o lder (22–24 months) and approximately half (N D 26) were
younger (15–21 months). In addition to striving for equal samples in the
two age groups, w e iden tified the cutoff b ecause, as described later, it is
at 22 months that childr en seemed to begin fast-mapping from children’s
programs. Prior t o that age, on ly six children successfully fast-mapped in
the children’s program co ndit ion. In comparison, 11 younger chil dren suc-
cessfully fast-mapped in the joint reference condition. It appeared, then, that
benefits from watching the children’s program did not begin unti l the child
was somewhat older. Again, there was a main effect for condition, F (3, 37) D
3.51, p < .05,
D .08, and there was a significant interaction between age
and condi tion , F(3, 37) D 4.67, p < .05,
D .11. Using pairwise compar-
isons (see Table 2), we found that older ch ildren in the joint reference con-
dition performed significantly better than either younger or older children
in the child ren’s program condition. In addition, older children watching
the children’s program performed significantly better than younger children
watching the children’s program.
Summary of Findings
This study examined the ability of a group of toddlers to learn novel words
from television. In particular , we compared the children when novel words
Learn Vocabulary From Television 57
were presented via television (i.e., the children’s program and video of adult
speaker) with direct adult-to-child interacti ons (i.e., joint and discrepant ref-
erence). Ov erall, children identified the target words most successfully in the
joint reference condition. Furthermore, their performance in the children’s
program condition was similar to their performance in the discrepant refer-
ence condition despite their high attention to the children’s program. In fact,
higher attention to the adult speaker seemed to aid in learning, whereas
higher attention to the children’s program was less beneficial. Lastly, we
found that there was a significant interact ion be tween age and condition and
between vocabulary size and condi tion on children’s performance. Specifi-
cally, both young er and older to ddlers are able to perform the fast mapping
task whe n they receive the information from an adult speaker; however, it
appears that until children are a pproximately 22 months old, they are not
fast mapping from material pre sented on the children’s progra m. Similarly,
smaller vocabularies acted to hinder child ren’s learning from the children’s
program and from the discrepant reference condi tion, but smaller vocabu-
laries did not seem to hinder children’s word learning i n the jo int reference
condition or the adult in video condition. The refore, the combinati on of
small vocabularie s and younger viewers seems to make it particularly dif-
ficult for children to learn from children’s programs and from discrepant
labeli ng. Instead, all child ren learn better from an adult to whom they are
paying attention, and to some extent it does not matter as much if the adult
is ‘‘live’’ or on television.
Limitations, Implications, a nd Future Research
Although the results o f this study are intriguing, there are sever al limitations
that must be kept in mind. First, due to diffi culties i n recruiting participants
in the targeted age range, the sample was necessarily small. This results in
two specific problems. The first problem is that there is a g reater likelihood
of type II erro r. The second pro blem is that it is unclear to what extent this
sample is representative of the gener a l population. G iven that the pare nts
needed to bring the child to the lab to be tested, it is likely that this group
of parents was particularly vigilant . It is possible that rapid word learning in
the general population, whet her from the adult or from childr en’s program-
ming, occurs somewhat later than found among the present sample. Future
research should be conducted that examines both a larger and a more rep-
resentative sample.
Second, due to the age of the participan ts, it was difficult for them to
maintain attention over a longer testing period. Therefore, we measured onl y
one trial in each of the condit ions. This pro blem was per haps compounde d
by the use of only one instantiation of each condition, which co uld possibly
create single message effects (Jackson, 1992). For example, if several Tele-
tubbies clips had been created, each introducing a di ffer ent ‘‘novel object,’’
58 M. Krcmar et al.
our results may be more valid. Certainly, multiple trials with multiple mes-
sage exemplars would incr ease validity; howe ver, this certainly requires test-
ing over several days, rather than during one, ex tensive trial. This kind of
research would be valuable. In addition, research that uses multiple message
exemplars might also be used to investigate what formal features facili tate
learning in toddlers. If, in fact, toddlers continue to watch television, it would
be extremely b enefi cial to understand what kinds of f ormal features, indeed
what kinds of stimuli, best suit their educati onal needs.
Third, as recent research has shown, very young children do watch
television. In Linebarger and Walker’s (2005) longitudinal study of 6- to 30-
month -old children, although 6-month- old childr en did not appear to watch
very much television, by 12 months, they were watching an average of 1
hr per day. There fore, this study would have benefited from a measure
of children’s television viewi ng and future research should assess parental
repor ts of children’s televi sion exposure.
Despite these limitations, there are several interesting results with both
practical and theoret ical implications. From a theo retical perspective, this
study lends so me evidence that toddlers can recognize and ‘‘use’’ the two-
dimensional images on television as ‘‘real.’’ The results of this study showed
that children in the no word condition could identify an object on the screen
from one they had seen in real life. These results ar e consistent with fin d-
ings of DeLoache (2000), who examined children’s un derstanding of the
relat ionship between two-dimensional images and those presented in three
dimensions in real life. Furthermore, e ven when we collapsed across age
groups, chi ldren’s perfor man ce i n the adult in video cond ition was some-
what similar to their performance in the joint reference co ndit ion. Therefore,
very young child ren seem to be able to understand the two-dimensional
space of television and ‘‘use’’ it to perform tasks.
From a practical perspective, it see ms clear that, during the early stages
of language acqui sition, including children who have fewer than 50-word
vocabularies, toddlers learn more from an adult speaker than they do from a
program su ch as Teletubbies. Not only was performance markedly differen t
among the joint refer ence, the videotaped a dult speaker, and the children’s
program conditions, but there was an interesting age and vocab ulary effect
as well. Specifically, children younger than 22 months did not seem to accu-
ratel y fast map f rom the children’s program, whereas they were readil y able
to fast map from the adult speaker. Why would this be th e case? There are
at least three possible explana tions.
First, it is possible that young chil dren do a ttend to children’s pro-
grams—and the data do support that noti on—but they do not kn ow specifi-
cally what to focus on. Unlike an adult speaker wh o might g esture and look
at the object as they name it, the vivid formal featu res of children’s programs
may serve to dilute the attention of the child. In other words, children may
not know precisely where to focus t heir attention. However, by the time
Learn Vocabulary From Television 59
children are 22 months, t hey may better be able to focus and may know
more about language, and therefore may be better able to know what is
being named on the television screen.
A second related possibility is that the amount of sensory information in
children’s programs may be too great for young children to process. Because
the amount of visual information in the stimulus clip was identical to t he
original and the auditory information was similar, it is likely that the stimulus
tape was ecologically valid. Furthermore, the children may have attended to
the novel word used to describe th e periscope, but be ca use of their limited
ability to efficiently process and store t he auditory infor mation, it decayed
from working memory befo re it could be sent to long-term memory. Results
of this type have been found w ith older preschool children an d school-age
children (e.g., F isch et a l., 2001; Lee Swanson, 1996), but we may assume
that this also applies to toddlers.
Finally, a third possibility may have to do with the puppet-like charac-
ters. During early language learning, young children use multiple strategies
to learn a novel w ord. Not only do they attend to the named object, but they
may focus on the face of the speaker to see where she or he is look ing, or
to watch the formation of the word by the speaker. In the case of a no n-
human ch aracter, facial movement simply does not match word formation
with any great precision, thus masking important information . Is all of this
to say that children cannot learn novel words from tel evision? No ; earlie r
research o n older child ren (i.e., ages 2–7) has demonstrated that vocabu-
lary learning is possibl e (e.g., Rice, 1984; Rice e t al., 1990). However, our
results suggest that word lear ning occurs only late r, beginning per haps at
22 months.
Which explanation is most compelling? Are children unsure of where
to direct their atten tion ? Are they overloaded in terms of stimulu s input? Are
the needed visual cues (e.g ., movement of the oral mechanism) absent, hin-
der ing word lear ning ? Given that attent ion is high to children’s programs,
but learning i s not, omnibus attention is unlikely to help ensure word learn-
ing from children’s programs for preverbal children. Furthermore, given that
attention to the adult who appeared in the video (adult in video condition)
does seem to help l earning, even very young childr en appear to fast-map
from a television screen . One difference is that the adult in the video is not
overly vivid. It is easy for the child to focus on the nonverbal cues pre-
sented by the adult such as pointing, showing, or using facial expressio ns.
Furthermore, older children seem to fast-map from children’s programs de-
spite the presence of extraneous stimuli; it does not seem to preclu de word
learning. Rather, consider that even children with smaller vocabularies can
fast-map from the adult speaker and from t he adult in the video. Therefore,
although larger vocabularies help in continued word learning, it is obviously
not a necessary condition for word learn ing to occur. Instead, optimal lear n-
ing seems to take place when very young children know where to focus
60 M. Krcmar et al.
their attention. This improved attention can be aided by development in the
child, such as vocabulary growth. However , for very young children, it is
likely aided by o ptimizing and clarifying the stimulus in put.
The results of this study have important i mplications for language acqui-
sition . It appears that mere exposure to language is insufficien t for teaching
language to init ial language learners. Rather, children must be actively en-
gaged in the process with responsive language teachers. Furthermore, they
must know what, i n the milieu, to focus on. Because television is not able
to respond to a particular child, anothe r strategy to enable initial language
learning may be to minimize the amount of stimulus made available for very
young children in a program. Earlier research in languag e learni ng certainly
shows th at low stimulus input, such as an adult speaker, is quite effective
at helping very young children t o fast map (e.g., Rice, 1983, 1984). Fur-
thermore, research on preschool ers, televisio n, a nd comprehension suggests
that some amount of comprehension is necessary to maintain attention and
cont inued attention is nee ded to further comprehension. In the worl d of tod-
dlers, it is possible that a certa in level of comprehension must be achieved
from other sources before the world of tel evision can be understood and for
attention to be maintained. In oth er words, toddlers may need some base-
line language comprehension before television becomes an ‘‘ed ucational’’
In summary, this study supports the idea that prel ingu istic o r newly ver-
bal chil dren are more likely to le arn vocabulary fro m an adult rather than
from telev ision. Ho wever, as more television programs geared toward young
children are develo ped, paren ts should be aware that very vivid programs
may entertain preverba l toddlers, but these programs may not be adequate
language teachers. Furthermore, parents and program producers alik e might
reco gnize that the vivid displays that are appealing to adults may be too
stimulatin g for toddlers if learning is the ulti mate goal. As always, the devel-
opmental stage of the child must be deeply considered when producing the
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... The starting point for research on young children's learning from screens is the suggestion that children exhibit little learning from passive video viewing and benefit more from equivalent live experiences, an effect referred to as the "video deficit effect" (D. R. Anderson & Pempek, 2005). This effect is not task-specific and has been exhibited in various domains, including (but not limited to) action imitation (R. Barr & Hayne, 1999; R. Barr et al., 2007;Deocampo & Hudson, 2005;Dickerson et al., 2013;Hayne et al., 2003;Hudson & Sheffield, 1999;Strouse & Troseth, 2008), object retrieval (Schmitt & Anderson, 2002;Troseth & DeLoache, 1998), emotion processing (Diener et al., 2008;Mumme & Fernald, 2003), self-recognition (Suddendorf et al., 2007), and language learning (Krcmar et al., 2007;Roseberry et al., 2009;Troseth et al., 2018). In general, the literature suggests that the effect peaks around 15 to 24 months of age and then diminishes until approximately 36 months (R. Barr, 2010;DeLoache et al., 2010;Dickerson et al., 2013;Troseth, 2010), although, depending on task difficulty and measure sensitivity, the effect may persist beyond 36 months (Flynn & Whiten, 2008;McGuigan et al., 2007;Reiß et al., 2019;Roseberry et al., 2009;Strouse & Samson, 2021). ...
... As detailed in the literature review, the video deficit effect has been demonstrated in various tasks, including word learning (Krcmar et al., 2007;Roseberry et al., 2009;Troseth et al., 2018), in which children have been passively exposed to training stimuli on a screen (e.g., where they were given no choice in what they were being trained on). This video deficit effect can be mitigated by providing children with a more interactive learning context. ...
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In light of the proliferation of tablets (and apps) in young children’s lives, the overarching theme of this thesis is to examine ways in which the unique affordances of such devices can contribute to young children’s early language development. More specifically, this thesis takes a detailed look at young children’s word learning from tablets and the potential use of tablets as a means to assess early word knowledge. From the word learning viewpoint, the first three studies, including a pilot study, examined 2- to 3-year-olds’ word learning from a tablet app through two learning modes: active selection versus passive reception. Results from Study 1A suggest a passive advantage in terms of recognition accuracy among 30- and 40-month-olds but no such advantage was found among 24-month-olds. That is, giving children active control over their learning experiences did not appear to benefit children across the three age groups, but passive watching led to better performance among older children. While Study 1B replicated these results with a new group of 30-month-olds from a different cultural and linguistic background, no differences were found across both active and passive conditions using a more implicit looking time measure, suggesting that children learnt equally across both conditions, but there may be performance costs associated with active selection in tasks designed as in these studies. From the word knowledge assessment viewpoint, Study 2 explored the viability of tablets in assessing early word comprehension among 1-year-olds by means of a two-alternative forced choice word recognition task. Preliminary results indicated that children as young as 18 months can engage meaningfully with a tablet-based assessment, with minimal verbal instruction and child–administrator interaction. The encouraging results further suggest that such assessments have scope for deriving a direct measure of early word comprehension that can supplement parent reports, such as the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDI), thereby addressing concerns relating to the exclusive use of parent reports and allowing a more complete picture of children’s early language development. In order to facilitate the assessment of early word knowledge, Study 3 sought to develop a language-general approach that produces adaptive short-form versions of CDIs with test items that are maximally informative and derives estimates of full CDI scores based on prior CDI data from language-, sex-, and age-matched children. Results from real-data simulations revealed that the approach was able to efficiently estimate full CDI scores with tests featuring fewer than 25 items—regardless of language, sex, and age—achieving correlations above .95 with full CDI administrations, with high levels of reliability. Through the combination of web technology and tablets, this thesis also showcases the potential and value of web- and tablet-based methods for collecting data in early developmental research. To make web methods more accessible to researchers, this thesis additionally contributes a new authoring tool, e-Babylab, that allows users to create, host, run, and manage browser-based experiments—without the need for prior technical knowledge. Implications of the results and research limitations, along with possible avenues for future research are discussed.
... For example, 6-to 24-month-olds imitate novel actions with unfamiliar objects after watching an adult model them in a video (Barr, Muentener, & Garcia, 2007;McCall et al., 1977;Meltzoff, 1988;Schmitt & Anderson, 2002;Strouse & Troseth, 2008). In addition, 8-to 24-month-olds learn new words for unfamiliar objects from video, including videos adapted from commercially produced programs such as Teletubbies and Baby Einstein (Krcmar, Grela, & Lin, 2007;Vandewater, 2011;Vandewater, Barr, Park, & Lee, 2010). However, learning a novel action or word from video is simpler than updating a representation of an absent object using video. ...
... This pattern is consistent with the video deficit in which children in the first 3 years of life learn less effectively from symbolic objects such as videos than from equivalent real-life experience (Anderson & Pempek, 2005). Many studies show that infants either fail to learn from video (e.g., DeLoache et al., 2010;Krcmar, 2011) or learn less from video than from equivalent real-life experience (e.g., Barr & Hayne, 1999;Deocampo & Hudson, 2005;Krcmar et al., 2007). ...
Before their second birthday, infants can update their knowledge based on what someone tells them, but can they do so based on what a video shows them? The current study explored whether infants can update their representation of an absent object's properties after seeing a video of something happening to it, following seminal work showing that they can update their representation after being told about something happening to it (Ganea et al., 2007). It thus adapted an existing paradigm for testing infants' understanding of references to absent objects (using language) to investigate a different symbolic medium (video). Twenty-two-month-olds first played with a toy and later saw on video that the toy underwent a change in state while they were out of the room. Infants in the current study did not subsequently identify the toy based on this new information, whereas those in previous research did. Infants this age thus appear less likely to update their representation of an absent object's properties using video than using language. This result is consistent with the possibility that infants may understand the representational function of symbolic objects later in development than they understand the representational function of language. It also aligns with evidence of the video deficit in which infants learn less effectively from video than from firsthand experience.
... Results showed that, until 22 months of age, children were not able to learn new words from TV programs. Authors concluded that in the prelinguistic and newly verbal state of development, children need human interaction to acquire vocabulary [18]. Accordingly, it is claimed that there is a negative association between television viewing in this population and language and executive functioning development [19][20][21]. ...
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Screen media are ubiquitous in human life across all age, cultural and socioeconomic groups. The ceaseless and dynamic growth of technological possibilities has given rise to questions regarding their effect on the well-being of children. Research in this area largely consists of cross-sectional studies; experimental and randomized studies are rare, which makes drawing causative conclusions difficult. However, the prevailing approach towards the use of screen media by children has focused on time limitations. The emerging evidence supports a more nuanced perspective. It appears that the older the child, the more important how the screen media are used becomes. Concentrating on the quality of the screen, time has become increasingly relevant in the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated a transfer of educational and social functioning from real-life to the digital world. With this review, we aimed at gathering current knowledge on the correlations of different screen media use and development outcomes, as well as providing an overview of potential benefits that new technologies may provide to the pediatric population. To summarize, if one cannot evade screen time in children, how can we use it for children’s maximum advantage?
... Much research has investigated the effects of media usage in early childhood, with a particular focus on educational outcomes and developmental influences. Beginning with educational implications, depending on age and content, children can learn from screen-media ( Barr & Linebarger, 2017 ), however, very young children have difficulty acquiring new words from screen media ( Krcmar, Grela, & Lin, 2007 ;Robb, Richert, & Wartella, 2009 ). Some work demonstrates that media can improve children's vocabulary ( Rice et al., 1990 ), narrative skill ( Linebarger & Piotrowski, 2009 ), and copying ( Kirkorian et al., 2020 ). ...
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Media form an integral part of children's environments and represent, amongst other domains, altered sensorimotor experiences. Fine motor skills (FMS) represent a fundamental prerequisite for learning and cognition and initial work has begun to show links with screen media usage-although work is scarce and the directionality is uncertain. Therefore, using a cross-lagged-panel design with 2 waves 1 year apart, we examined longitudinal links between media usage and FMS in 141 preschool children. Results show a negative cross-lagged path from media usage to FMS, which was also statistically significant when only newer media were examined, after controlling for parental educational attainment, immigrant status , device ownership, age of first use, working memory, and vocabulary. The study contributes to our understanding of links between media usage and FMS development.
... L'acquisition du langage s'effectue lors des interactions sociales et de nombreuses études ont démontré que la présence d'un interlocuteur humain (interaction entre locuteur et apprenant) est une condition pour l'apprentissage quasiment indispensable (Krcmar, Grela, & Lin, 2007 ;Kuhl et al., 2003 ;O'Doherty et al.,2011 ;Roseberry, Hirsh-Pasek, Parish-Morris, & Golinkoff, 2009). L'acquisition de la sélectivité perceptive aux sons de parole de la langue maternelle (e.g., Kuhl, 2004Kuhl, , 2010 (Csibra, 2010). ...
... One of the most reported positive contributions of cartoons is that they assist children's linguistic and cognitive development. Experimental studies have indicated that children can learn new words from cartoons (Krcmar et al., 2007). Additionally, high-quality cartoons can help children acquire useful information, feel and learn positive and good emotions, and improve their thinking skills (Meng et al., 2020). ...
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This study aims to analyze the views of children whose spatial concept development is supported by activities conducted with educational cartoons compared to traditional methods. In this context, preschool children's views on the activities, their memory retention of them, and the levels of awareness caused by the activities were investigated. This study was conducted over a period of 4 weeks with four groups of preschool children. Activities were conducted using educational cartoons with two groups (experimental groups) and using traditional methods with the other two groups (control groups). This study used a quasiexperimental design, but a semistructured interview was used for data collection. The findings demonstrated that, while the majority of children in the experimental groups remembered all the activities, the majority of children in the control groups could not remember the activities. Whereas the majority of children in the experimental groups reported that the cartoons had taught them spatial concepts and games, the children in the control groups reported that the activities had taught them games.
Young children can sometimes acquire new word meanings—even for property terms—through incidental learning (e.g. Carey & Bartlett, 1978). We propose that an important support for this process is spontaneous perceptual comparison processes that lead children to notice key commonalities and differences. Specifically, we hypothesize that when the target property appears as a difference between two highly similar and alignable objects, spontaneous comparison processes operate to highlight the property. The property may then be linked to an accompanying word, even if the child has no prior intention to learn the word. To test this, we revisited the Carey and Bartlett paradigm, varying the perceptual alignability of the objects that 3- and 4-year-olds saw while hearing a novel color word, chromium. In Experiments 1 and 2, children in the High Alignment condition were able to identify chromium objects in a subsequent task, whereas those in the Low Alignment condition were not. Experiment 3 showed that direct instructions to learn the word led to a different pattern of results. Experiment 4 showed that the incidental learning persisted over delay and transferred to new objects. We conclude that perceptual alignment contributes to referential transparency and to incidental learning of word meanings. Implications for hypothesis-testing theories of word learning are discussed.
In response to the growing global demand for teaching additional language(s) to very young children (ages 2–6), an increasing supply of digital technologies purports to assist pre-primary school children with their language learning. Focusing on TV/videos, digital picture books, and social robots, this paper examined the small body of empirical research on the effect of these digital technologies on very young second or foreign language learners and bolstered this research with similar studies conducted among very young children learning a first language. The paper identifies possibilities and limitations of using such technologies and documents how they can be used effectively with young language learners. Two key elements for effective use of digital technologies emerged from the examination of the relevant studies: (a) digital devices and applications must have developmentally appropriate content and functions; and (b) children need to have meaningful interaction with adults or digital agents while using digital technology. The paper concludes with two implications for future research: (a) the need to have critical discussions when designing digital technologies for and using digital technologies with young children; and (b) the need to pay greater attention to individual differences in children’s attitudes and preferences concerning different digital technologies.
Preschool-aged children can learn from fictional, pretend, and imaginative activities. However, many studies showing this learning involve children as physically passive while consuming fictional narratives rather than as actively, physically engaged. Physical engagement may add to cognitive processes already at play when watching narratives, making children more likely to retain or understand information. Children’s natural pretend involves physical movement, role play, and embodiment. To test learning from embodied pretense, we conducted two studies in which we experimentally manipulated whether children were physically passive while consuming narratives or physically actively engaged with them through embodied pretend play using puppets or costumes. In Study 1, children were shown/engaged in television-based narratives, all of which contained fantastical content. In Study 2, children were shown/engaged in lab-created stories, some of which contained fantastical elements. We measured children’s learning and perceptions of realism. In Study 1, neither perception of fictionality nor embodiment immediately affected learning, although older preschoolers learned more than younger preschoolers. In Study 2, neither perception nor presence of fantastical content affected learning, but embodiment did. Children learned more from both embodied conditions compared with the physically passive condition. We also included 2-week follow-up tests of recall and found that although children retained very little, embodiment still affected retention in both studies. Overall, children did not use realism judgments to differentiate learning. These findings show the complexity of different elements involved in children’s learning from pretense and the need to understand what elements affect learning from fantastical and embodied pretend play and stories.
A great deal of research in communication and related fields attempts to determine how contrasting message strategies affect outcomes such as attitude or behavior change. This book is about how to design experiments that build strong evidence for claims about these effects.
Two experiments examined the emergent mapping phenomenon in Portuguese-speaking children aged 3-13. This phenomenon is relevant to developmental psychologists' interest in "fast mapping" of new word-referent relations and also to behavior analysts' interest in behavior that emerges without explicit conditioning. We studied 52 children, using the "blank comparison" match ing-to-sam pie technique described by Wilkinson and McIlvane (1997). The technique allows direct measurement of the stimulus control bases of emergent mapping, for example, to determine whether new words and their referents are related directly or via rejection (i.e., exclusion) of previously defined referents. Children demonstrated both types of controlling relations. These studies systematically replicate prior emergent mapping research in a large cohort of non-English-speaking children. Also found were apparent developmental differences between older and younger children. Although all children tended to relate novel stimuli, the tendency appeared to decline as children aged. This study confirms the utility of the blank comparison technique in emergent mapping research and also provides the first data set from school-aged children.
About a quarter of a century ago, a young American radical, Stokely Carmichael, commented that violence was as American as apple pie! At least in terms of prevalence, nothing much seems to have changed since that time. The frequency of violence directed by one human being at another was appallingly high then and is appallingly high now. The United States is not the most violent society in the world. That distinction belongs to some of the less developed countries ravaged by wars, terrorism, drug battles, and general lawlessness. Nor is violence as endemic now as it has been during many of the last 20 centuries. Among the highly developed Western societies, however, the United States has scored at the top for the past several decades on most objective measures of interpersonal violence. For example, homicides in the United States rose from an overall rate of about 5 per 100,000 to 10 per 100,000 between World War II and the 1980s and have remained at about that level. Of course, the rate in some inner-city ghettos may be 10 times this rate (100/100,000) and the rate for certain age cohorts may be 3 times this rate (e.g., 30/100,000 for males 18 to 24). In comparison, no other highly developed Western society has a rate much above 3 per 100,000 and most are below 1 per 100,000. Rates at these levels are cause enough for concern and also reflect increases since World War II, but the sustained rates in the United States are a national tragedy. In some urban areas of the United States the most common cause of death for young males is now homicide.
About a quarter of a century ago, a young American radical, Stokely Carmichael, commented that violence was as American as apple pie! At least in terms of prevalence, nothing much seems to have changed since that time. The frequency of violence directed by one human being at another was appallingly high then and is appallingly high now. The United States is not the most violent society in the world. That distinction belongs to some of the less developed countries ravaged by wars, terrorism, drug battles, and general lawlessness. Nor is violence as endemic now as it has been during many of the last 20 centuries. Among the highly developed Western societies, however, the United States has scored at the top for the past several decades on most objective measures of interpersonal violence. For example, homicides in the United States rose from an overall rate of about 5 per 100,000 to 10 per 100,000 between World War II and the 1980s and have remained at about that level. Of course, the rate in some inner-city ghettos may be 10 times this rate (100/100,000) and the rate for certain age cohorts may be 3 times this rate (e.g., 30/100,000 for males 18 to 24). In comparison, no other highly developed Western society has a rate much above 3 per 100,000 and most are below 1 per 100,000. Rates at these levels are cause enough for concern and also reflect increases since World War II, but the sustained rates in the United States are a national tragedy. In some urban areas of the United States the most common cause of death for young males is now homicide.
The dialogue and nonverbal formal features of six children's television programs are described. The findings of this study have implications for models of young viewers' information processing when viewing, and possible effects of the medium on children's language development.
This study examined constraints on early phases of incidental learning ('fast mapping') of novel word comprehension in twenty 13- to 16-month-old children just beginning to acquire spoken words (10- to 30-word vocabularies). It asked: whether children this young can give evidence of comprehension, as indicated by object looking, after only four novel word exposures; whether frequency of input (4 versus 8 exposures) influenced learning; whether learning was better for novel words composed of sounds IN rather than OUT of the infant's repertoire ('phonological selectivity'); and whether infants also attended to the named object on probe trials partially similar in sounds to the novel word ('partial representation'). Planned comparisons revealed that children 13 to 16 months of age can 'fast map' novel words after only four word exposures and that representation of the word form may be partial. Further, the likelihood that a named object would be identified following a probe systematically diminished as the phonetic similarity to the target stimulus decreased. No effects of selectivity or input frequency were evident.