Timing matters: The impact of label synchrony on infant categorisation

Nadja Althaus, Kim Plunkett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


The impact of labelling on infant visual categorisation has yielded contradictory outcomes. Some findings indicate a beneficial role while others point to interference effects in the presence of labels. The locus of these divergent outcomes is largely unclear. We explore the hypothesis that the timing of the label is of crucial importance, proposing that synchronous presentation of words and objects induces a higher processing load than asynchronous presentation (image onset before labelling) A novelty preference experiment with 12-month-olds reveals that synchronous presentation leads to a diminished preference for a novel object on test in comparison to asynchronous labelling, suggesting a detrimental impact on category learning. However, analyses of infants' gaze patterns to object parts reveal that even synchronous labels do not hinder learning completely. We conclude that synchronous labels interfere with the familiarisation process, but this process involves shifts in familiarity vs. novelty preference rather than overshadowing of visual learning. Besides offering detailed insight into the effects of labelling on infants' visual attention, these findings offer the potential to reconcile previous contradictory results. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Early online date14 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Categorisation
  • Cognitive development
  • Language development
  • Eye tracking
  • Visual attention

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