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A Learned Label Modulates Object Representations in 10-Month-Old Infants



See also conference proceedings paper (Twomey & Westermann, 2016)
A Learned Label Modulates Object Representations
in 10-Month-Old Infants
Katherine E. Twomey & Gert Westermann, Lancaster University, UK
Infants begin to link their linguistic and nonlinguistic
representations in the first year, responding to familiar labels
from 6 months (Bergelson & Swingley, 2012)
Converging evidence indicates labels encountered online
affect online nonlinguistic processing, e.g., guiding category
formation (Althaus & Westermann, 2016)
Learned language also affects online category generalization
(e.g., Perry & Samuelson, 2011)
In adults, labels shape cogntion (Lupyan, 2012), but do labels shape
nonlinguistic representations in infancy?
Gliga, Volein & Csibra, 2010 (E2)
Trained 12-month-old infants with 2 novel 3D objects, one
with a novel label, one without
Immediately afterwards, presented infants with images of (a)
labeled object, (b) unlabeled object, (c) completely novel
object in silence
Recorded EEG gamma band response (index of object
Gamma band response stronger after the labeled object
relative to unlabeled and novel object
Conclusion: labels modulate object representation
But this label training is unlikely to result in long-term word
learning (Horst & Samuelson, 2008), so whether learned language
modulates learned representations remains unclear
Infants’ looking times reflect what they have learned (Fantz,
1964), so we can use looking times to index differences in
Test word learning to be sure effect is based on long-term
This work was supported by the International Centre for Language and
Communicative Development (LuCiD).The support of the Economic and
Social Research Council [ES/L008955/1] is gratefully acknowledged. We
would like to thank the caregivers and infants who made this work
At-home 3D object training
Caregivers train 10mo infants (N = 24) with 2 novel 3D
objects in 5 minute play session, every day for 7 days.
Train label for one object only (counterbalanced)
After 1 week: lab-based eyetracking task
1.Familiarization: present infants with 8 images of each item,
interleaved, silent 10s trials
2.Word learning test trial: both objects presented
simultaneously, with label, 12s
Look! A tanzer!
Look at that!
…16 trials
Look! A
Time (ms)
Labeled Unlabeled
Longer looking to
labeled stimulus
(beta = 0.082, SE = 0.032,
2(1) = 5.97, p = .014 )
Word learning
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Proportion target looking
Response at 6556 ms
Target looking
increase in
2s postlabel from
2s prelabel
(t(22) = 2.00, p = .058)
Individual differences?
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w
Change in proportion target looking
Some (but not all)
10mos responded
to label
Introduction Method Results
Two possible mechanisms
Label activation: labeling during training increases
attention (Baldwin & Markman, 1989), during silent familiarization effect
persists / implicit activation of label increases attention (cf.
Mani & Plunkett. 2010)
Labels and objects represented separately; labels augment
object representations over experience (Westermann & Mareschal, 2014)
Novelty: label and object representation become
integrated during training; absence of label during
familiarization causes novelty response
Labels are features of object representations in the same
way as color/shape/texture (Gliozzi, Mayor, Hu & Plunkett, 2010)
Computational test of these alternatives: see Capelier-
Mourguy, Twomey & Westermann (2016, August). A
neurocomputational model of the effect of learned labels
on infants’ object representations.
Althaus, N., & Westermann, G. (2016). Labels constructively shape categories in 10-month-
old infants. JECP.
Baldwin, D. A., & Markman, E. M. (1989). Establishing word-object relations: A first step.
Child Dev.
Bergelson, E., & Swingley, D. (2012). At 6–9 months, human infants know the meanings of
many common nouns. PNAS.
Fantz, R. L. (1964). Visual experience in infants: Decreased attention familar patterns
relative to novel ones. Science.
Gliga, T., Volein, A., & Csibra, G. (2010). Verbal labels modulate perceptual object
processing in 1-year-old children. J Cognitive Neurosci.
Gliozzi, V., Mayor, J., Hu, J. F., & Plunkett, K. (2009). Labels as features (not names) for
infant categorization: A neurocomputational approach. Cognitive Sci.
Lupyan, G. (2012). Linguistically modulated perception and cognition: the label feedback
hypothesis. Front Psych.
Mani, N., & Plunkett, K. (2010). In the infant’s mind’s ear: Evidence for implicit naming in
18-month-olds. Psych Sci.
Perry, L. K., & Samuelson, L. K. (2011). The shape of the vocabulary predicts the shape of
the bias. Front Psych.
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