Context in word learning: Word learning in context
Children encounter novel words and referents across variable contexts that are defined by a great deal of perceptual chaos. Context variability may affect word learning, making it more difficult for children to link a label with its referent. The two experiments conducted here investigated whether certain background contexts affect young children’s word learning more than other background contexts. In Experiment 1, 2-year-olds (N=24) were exposed to new words-object pairings on variable background contexts that either included nameable objects or did not. Children learned words better immediately when taught in contexts that did not contain other objects. After a delay, this condition difference disappeared. Experiment 2 was conducted to explore whether the results of Experiment 1 were due to object segmentation difficulty. In Experiment 2, a new sample of 2-year-olds (N=24) were again taught novel words in variable contexts, but the objects were either segmented from backgrounds (using common motion) or not. Results of Experiment 2 suggest that object segmentation may play a role in of context on word learning. Together, the results of both experiments provide new insight into when children’s word learning is most likely to be affected by irrelevant context features.