Nivedita Mani, Elizabeth Johnson, James M McQueen, and Falk Huettig (2013)

How yellow is your banana? Toddlers' language-mediated visual search in referent-present tasks

Developmental Psychology, 49(6):1036-1044.

What is the relative salience of different aspects of word meaning in the developing lexicon? The current study examines the time-course of retrieval of semantic and color knowledge associated with words during toddler word recognition: At what point do toddlers orient toward an image of a yellow cup upon hearing color-matching words such as 'banana' (typically yellow) relative to unrelated words (e.g., 'house')? Do children orient faster to semantic matching images relative to color matching images, for example, orient faster to an image of a cookie relative to a yellow cup upon hearing the word 'banana'? The results strongly suggest a prioritization of semantic information over color information in children's word-referent mappings. This indicates that even for natural objects (e.g., food, animals that are more likely to have a prototypical color), semantic knowledge is a more salient aspect of toddler's word meaning than color knowledge. For 24-month-old Dutch toddlers, bananas are thus more edible than they are yellow.