Temperament and early word learning:the effect of shyness on referent selection and retention

Hilton, Matt (2016) Temperament and early word learning:the effect of shyness on referent selection and retention. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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The current thesis examined individual differences that can impact on the disambiguation and learning of novel word meanings, focusing on the effects of shyness, defined as an aversion to novelty in social situations (Putnam, Gartstein & Rothbart, 2006). A systematic pattern of attention during labeling is crucial in supporting children's novel word disambiguation (Halberda, 2006), and in determining whether these novel word meanings will be learned (Axelsson, Churchley & Horst, 2012). This thesis hypothesized that shyness affects novel word disambiguation and learning by modulating attention during labeling. This thesis showed that shy children did not reliably select a novel object as the referent of a novel label, while less-shy children did. Crucially, only less-shy children showed evidence of learning the novel label-referent mappings (Paper 1). However, these differences were only apparent in an unfamiliar environment (Paper 2), likely because shy children attended much more to features of the unfamiliar environment than lessshy children, which reduced their attention to the objects during labeling. Examination of children's eye-gaze during novel object labeling supported the conclusion that shyness exerts an effect on word learning via attention. Shy children did not demonstrate robust disengagement from the novel object during labeling (Paper 3), which meant that competitor objects could not be ruled out as referents, a critical process in determining whether a novel word-referent mapping will be formed (Mather & Plunkett, 2009). Furthermore, shy children's bias to attend to faces (Brunet et al., 2009) reduced their attention to potential referents during labeling (Paper 4). This thesis thus argues that shyness impacts on word disambiguation and learning by modulating the attentional processes that support these abilities, clearly demonstrating that shyness affects one of the earliest stages of language development: word learning.

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13 Oct 2016 13:52
Last Modified:
02 Nov 2023 01:08