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The nature of children’s early lexical processing was investigated by asking what information 36-month-olds access and use when instructed to find a known but absent referent. Children readily retrieved stored knowledge about characteristic color, i.e., when asked to find an object with a typical color (e.g., strawberry), children tended to fixate more upon an object that had the same (e.g., red plane) as opposed to a different (e.g., yellow plane) color. They did so regardless of the fact that they had plenty of time to recognize the pictures for what they are, i.e., planes and not strawberries. These data represent the first demonstration that language-mediated shifts of overt attention in young children can be driven by individual stored visual attributes of known words that mismatch on most other dimensions. The finding suggests that lexical processing and overt attention are strongly linked from an early age.
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- Eye movements during language-mediated visual search reveal a strong link between overt visual attention and lexical processing in 36-month-olds
Elizabeth K. Johnson