The Effect of Labels on Visual Attention: An Eye Tracking Study


The effects of language on categorization are well documented; however, underlying mechanisms are under debate. According to one account, words facilitate categorization by highlighting commonalities among labeled objects. Although there is some behavioral evidence consistent with this claim, research remains limited for whether labels can direct infants’ attention to corresponding visual features. In the current study, adults and infants were presented with 10 different exemplars that were either associated with 10 different labels, the same label, or presented in silence. An eye tracker recorded visual fixations to common and unique features throughout familiarization. Experiments 1 and 2 provide evidence that unique labels can direct infants’ and adults’ attention to unique features (compared to a silent condition); however, the effect of hearing the same label associated with different objects was less robust in both age groups.

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