New Research From Psychological Science

Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:

Capacity for Visual Features in Mental Rotation

Yangqing Xu and Steven L. Franconeri

Despite researchers’ interest in mental rotation — the ability of people to rotate the visual representation of objects in their mind — there is still much we don’t know about it. To learn more about this ability, the researchers performed a series of studies, some including eye tracking, in which participants were asked to mentally rotate simple objects with four differently colored parts. Participants were able to keep track of only one of the color-location feature links during the rotation task. The researchers found that participants tended to lock their gaze onto one part of the object — the part they encoded — and track its location throughout the mental rotation. These findings help expand our understanding of people’s capacity for mental rotation.

Concept-Based Word Learning in Human Infants

Jun Yin and Gergely Csibra

Do infants learn labels by mapping them onto similarity-defining perceptual features or by mapping them onto the concept of objects? Researchers had 14-month-old infants look at a pair of two animated agents, one of which was chasing the other. The “chaser” was labeled for the infants with a nonsense word. In a test phase, infants were presented with a new pair of agents (one chasing the other) and were asked to identify the agent associated with the trained word or to identify the agent associated with a new unheard word. Infants looked longer at the agent who was the chaser when they heard the trained word than they did when they heard the untrained new word. This indicates that infants interpreted the label as referring to the agent’s role rather than its appearance, indicating concept-based label learning.

The Contribution of Early Communication Quality to Low-Income Children’s Language Success

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Lauren B. Adamson, Roger Bakeman, Margaret Tresch Owen, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Amy Pace, Paula K. S. Yust, and Katharine Suma

Children in poverty hear fewer words than their wealthier peers, something that is thought to contribute to lower levels of language processing and vocabulary skills in children from these households; however, the quantity of language children hear is only one indicator of language outcomes. Using videotaped interactions recorded when the infants were 24 months old, researchers calculated the number of words spoken by low-income mothers each minute and rated the quality of mother-infant communication. An analysis of infants’ language development at 36 months found that the quality of communication at 24 months was a better predictor of language ability at 36 months than was language quantity. This suggests that interventions to help language development should do more than increase the number of words that parents say to their children; the interventions must also increase conversational quality.

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