Conceptual information permeates word learning in infancy

Amy E. Booth*, Sandra R. Waxman, Yi Ting Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Three experiments document that conceptual knowledge influences lexical acquisition in infancy. A novel target object was initially labeled with a novel word. In both yes-no (Experiment 1) and forced-choice (Experiment 2) tasks, 2-year-olds' subsequent extensions were mediated by the conceptual description of the targets. When targets were described as artifacts, infants extended on the basis of shape. When targets were described as animates, infants extended on the basis of both shape and texture. Experiment 3 revealed similar results for 1.5-year-olds. These results challenge the notion that expectations in word learning (e.g., the "shape bias") (a) emerge late and (b) rest entirely on correlations between perceptual object features and words. Instead, the results indicate that both perceptual and conceptual information permeate word learning in infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-505
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Conceptual knowledge
  • Infancy
  • Shape bias
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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