Examining Referential Uncertainty in Naturalistic Contexts from the Child’s View: Evidence from an Eye-Tracking Study with Infants


Young Infants are prolific word learners even though they are facing the challenge of referential uncertainty (Quine, 1960). Many laboratory studies have shown that infants are skilled at inferring correct referents of words from ambiguous contexts (Swingley, 2009). However, little is known regarding how they visually attend to and select the target object among many other objects in view when parents name it during everyday interactions. By investigating the looking pattern of 12-month-old infants using naturalistic first-person images with varying degrees of referential ambiguity, we found that infants’ attention is selective and they only select a small subset of objects to attend to at each learning instance despite the complexity of the data in the real world. This work allows us to better understand how perceptual properties of objects in infants’ view influence their visual attention, which is also related to how they select candidate objects to build word-object mappings.

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