Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Daniela Corbetta

Committee Members

Jessica Hay, Aaron Buss, Devin Casenhiser


Word learning is a complex process that involves multiple interacting components. One of these components is the motor system. During the first few years of development, the onset of motor skills predicts the development of language skills such that earlier onsets of crawling and walking relate to greater vocabulary sizes. It is thought that this relationship occurs due to a developmental cascade where gaining locomotive skills allows for greater environmental exploration, thus, more opportunities to learn new words. One area of interest in this cascade is object manipulation. Moving objects in a way that creates multiple views is related to larger vocabulary sizes later in development. The present study addresses how object manipulation and creating multiple, varied object views impact novel word learning. Infants aged 20-22 months old participated in two between-subjects experiments. Experiment 1 had no infant-directed object manipulation. In one condition, objects moved in a way that created consistent, fixed views. In another condition, objects moved in a way that created multiple, varied views. Experiment 2 had the same two conditions, but infants created the views independently through object manipulation. The evidence for learning in Experiment 1 was weak. There was no effect of condition, and neither condition was above chance level. In Experiment 2, infants learned novel words at a higher rate when they created varied object views. This condition also had a window of analysis that was above chance level. Notably, there was also a positive correlation between how much infants looked at the self-created varied views during learning trials and their rates of word learning. These results have implications for the relative impact of motor skills and object manipulation on word learning.

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