Two-Year-Olds Learn Novel Nouns, Verbs, and Conventional Actions From Massed or Spaced Exposures

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Two-year-old children were taught either 6 novel nouns, 6 novel verbs, or 6 novel actions over 1 month. In each condition, children were exposed to some items in massed presentations (on a single day) and some in distributed presentations (over the 2 weeks). Children's comprehension and production was tested at 3 intervals after training. In comprehension, children learned all types of items in all training conditions at all retention intervals. For production, the main findings were that (a) production was better for nonverbal actions than for either word type, (b) children produced more new nouns than verbs, (c) production of words was better following distributed than massed exposure, and (d) time to testing (immediate, 1 day, 1 week) did not affect retention. A follow-up study showed that the most important timing variable was the number of different days of exposure, with more days facilitating production. Results are discussed in terms of 2 key issues: (a) the domain-generality versus domain-specificity of processes of word learning and (b) the relative ease with which children learn nouns versus verbs.




American Psychological Association

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Developmental Psychology