Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Daniela Corbetta

Committee Members

Jessica Hay, Shannon Ross-Sheehy

Abstract

Often areas of infant development such as action and cognition are studied separately, despite fine interactions between the two developmental systems. Specifically, there is a relationship between motor skills and language development seen with a robust, positive correlation between more advanced locomotor skills and larger vocabulary sizes. Additionally, when infants create a large number of different object views through manual object exploration, they also demonstrate larger vocabulary sizes later in development. The present study proposes a model of examining language skills, specifically object-label mapping using Dynamic Systems Theory with multileveled interactions between attention, infant manual exploration, and novel label timing feeding into better mapping of novel labels onto objects. The present study seeks to address how dynamics of a task involving object manipulation impact subsequent object-label mapping. Infants, aged 18-21 months, proceeded through three within-subject conditions varied in their degree of manipulation and label timing. Two groups of infants were pulled from the data based on their performance in a condition with no infant manipulation. The results demonstrate that infants who struggled with mapping novel labels onto the object during the condition with no manipulation readily learned when there was synchrony between looking at the object while manipulating and hearing the novel label. The current findings call for a more in-depth look into foundational learning processes during early language acquisition in order to explain the variability seen in language skills.

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