A foundation of human cognition is the flexibility with which we can represent any object as either a unique individual (my dog Fred) or a member of an object category (dog, animal). This conceptual flexibility is supported by language; the way we name an object is instrumental to our construal of that object as an individual or a category member. Evidence from a new recognition memory task reveals that infants are sensitive to this principled link between naming and object representation by age 12 mo. During training, all infants (n = 77) viewed four distinct objects from the same object category, each introduced in conjunction with either the same novel noun (Consistent Name condition), a distinct novel noun for each object (Distinct Names condition), or the same sine-wave tone sequence (Consistent Tone condition). At test, infants saw each training object again, presented in silence along with a new object from the same category. Infants in the Consistent Name condition showed poor recognition memory at test, suggesting that consistently applied names focused them primarily on commonalities among the named objects at the expense of distinctions among them. Infants in the Distinct Names condition recognized three of the four objects, suggesting that applying distinct names enhanced infants’ encoding of the distinctions among the objects. Infants in the control Consistent Tone condition recognized only the object they had most recently seen. Thus, even for infants just beginning to speak their first words, the way in which an object is named guides infants’ encoding, representation, and memory for that object.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Sep 1 2020|
ASJC Scopus subject areas