How children generalize novel nouns : an eye tracking analysis of their generalization strategies.


Journal Article


Stansbury, E., Witt, A., Bard, P., Thibaut, J.-P.




How children generalize novel nouns : an eye tracking analysis of their generalization strategies.

Journal / book / conference

Plos One


Recent research has shown that comparisons of multiple learning stimuli which are associated with the same novel noun favor taxonomic generalization of this noun. These findings contrast with single-stimulus learning in which children follow so-called lexical biases. However, little is known about the underlying search strategies. The present experiment provides an eye-tracking analysis of search strategies during novel word learning in a comparison design. We manipulated both the conceptual distance between the two learning items, i.e., children saw examples which were associated with a noun (e.g., the two learning items were either two bracelets in a “close” comparison condition or a bracelet and a watch in a “far” comparison condition), and the conceptual distance between the learning items and the taxonomically related items in the generalization options (e.g., the taxonomic generalization answer; a pendant, a near generalization item; versus a bow tie, a distant generalization item). We tested 5-, 6- and 8-year-old children’s taxonomic (versus perceptual and thematic) generalization of novel names for objects. The search patterns showed that participants first focused on the learning items and then compared them with each of the possible choices. They also spent less time comparing the various options with one another; this search profile remained stable across age groups. Data also revealed that early comparisons, (i.e., reflecting alignment strategies) predicted generalization performance. We discuss four search strategies as well as the effect of age and conceptual distance on these strategies.


Download this publication in PDF format

‹ Back