Poster E57, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Some Complex Concepts Require Language: An eye-tracking study with 12- to 24-mo-old infants and adults
Ertugrul Uysal1, Mihye Choi1, Mohinish Shukla1; 1University of Massachusetts Boston
What is the relation between language and thought? The possibilities range from these being completely separate cognitive systems, to them being two sides of the same cognitive coin. One specific proposal (De Villiers, 2014) suggests and provides empirical evidence for the idea that language might particularly be required for building complex conceptual representations. For example, the thought “dogs push cars” not only represents a specific asymmetric relation between a dog and a car, but does so across all instances of any dog pushing any car. In this study, we examine the building of such abstract, three-term transitive events (e.g., dog-pushes-car) in 12- to 24-mo-olds (n=26) and in adults (n=20). In separate groups of infants (n=20) and adults(n=25), we compare these to two-term, intransitive events (e.g., dog-jumps) using visually comparable stimuli. Adult participants were further divided into two groups: a group that underwent simultaneous verbal shadowing to restrict language use and a control group without verbal shadowing. We used an eye-tracker and an anticipatory looking paradigm to examine the development of an abstract representation, as measured by anticipatory looks towards target events (e.g., a dog pushing a car) versus role-reversed events (a car pushing a dog), with novel cars, dogs, and their combinations. For the intransitive events, we found significant anticipations towards targets vs. non-targets in both infants and verbal-shadowing adults. For transitive events, only control adults showed significant target anticipations. We suggest that representing three-term transitive events may be at a level of complexity that cannot be accomplished without language.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Syntax