Categorization in 3- and 4-month-old infants: An advantage of words over tones

Alissa L. Ferry*, Susan J. Hespos, Sandra R. Waxman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Neonates prefer human speech to other nonlinguistic auditory stimuli. However, it remains an open question whether there are any conceptual consequences of words on object categorization in infants younger than 6 months. The current study examined the influence of words and tones on object categorization in forty-six 3- to 4-month-old infants. Infants were familiarized to different exemplars of a category accompanied by either a labeling phrase or a tone sequence. In test, infants viewed novel category and new within-category exemplars. Infants who heard labeling phrases provided evidence of categorization at test while infants who heard tone sequences did not, suggesting that infants as young as 3 months of age treat words and tones differently vis-à-vis object categorization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-479
Number of pages8
JournalChild development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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