Not Just a Window: Young Children Learn More from In-Person Events than Video-Mediated Events

AbstractImagine a toddler who is video-chatting with their grandparent. The grandparent holds up an object and labels it. To learn from this symbol-mediated experience, the toddler must understand that while they cannot reach out and hold the object, the object and grandparent do exist in the real world, and the label they just heard applies to the real object as well - not just the image on the computer screen. This ability to generalize knowledge and skills from one context to another is a fundamental component of learning, yet toddlers exhibit a transfer deficit whereby they are less likely to transfer information across contexts (e.g., from video images to real objects) than within the same context (Barr, 2013; Kirkorian, Pempek, & Choi, 2017; Troseth, 2010). For instance, 24-month-olds are more likely to find a sticker on a felt board if they watched an experimenter hide the sticker in person than if they watched the same demonstration via closed-circuit video (Kirkorian, Lavigne, Hanson, Troseth, Demers, & Anderson, 2016). We argue that this transfer deficit is due in part to the extent to which a particular learning task exceeds the cognitive resources of a particular child. Thus, although the transfer deficit is typically observed in toddlers 15-30 months of age, I have demonstrated individual differences in toddlers' transfer from video, strategies to ameliorate the transfer deficit at this younger age, and tasks that elicit a transfer deficit among older children.

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