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Words, shape, visual search and visual working memory in 3-year-old children.

Authors
  • Vales, Catarina1
  • Smith, Linda B
  • 1 Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, USA. , (India)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Developmental Science
Publisher
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2015
Volume
18
Issue
1
Pages
65–79
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1111/desc.12179
PMID: 24720802
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Do words cue children's visual attention, and if so, what are the relevant mechanisms? Across four experiments, 3-year-old children (N = 163) were tested in visual search tasks in which targets were cued with only a visual preview versus a visual preview and a spoken name. The experiments were designed to determine whether labels facilitated search times and to examine one route through which labels could have their effect: By influencing the visual working memory representation of the target. The targets and distractors were pictures of instances of basic-level known categories and the labels were the common name for the target category. We predicted that the label would enhance the visual working memory representation of the target object, guiding attention to objects that better matched the target representation. Experiments 1 and 2 used conjunctive search tasks, and Experiment 3 varied shape discriminability between targets and distractors. Experiment 4 compared the effects of labels to repeated presentations of the visual target, which should also influence the working memory representation of the target. The overall pattern fits contemporary theories of how the contents of visual working memory interact with visual search and attention, and shows that even in very young children heard words affect the processing of visual information.

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