Do children go for the nice guys? The influence of speaker benevolence and certainty on selective word learning

M. Bergstra, Hannah De Mulder, P.H.A. Coopmans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This study investigated how speaker certainty (a rational cue) and speaker benevolence (an emotional cue) influence children's willingness to learn words in a selective learning paradigm. In two experiments four- to six-year-olds learnt novel labels from two speakers and, after a week, their memory for these labels was reassessed. Results demonstrated that children retained the label–object pairings for at least a week. Furthermore, children preferred to learn from certain over uncertain speakers, but they had no significant preference for nice over nasty speakers. When the cues were combined, children followed certain speakers, even if they were nasty. However, children did prefer to learn from nice and certain speakers over nasty and certain speakers. These results suggest that rational cues regarding a speaker's linguistic competence trump emotional cues regarding a speaker's affective status in word learning. However, emotional cues were found to have a subtle influence on this process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-916
JournalJournal of Child Language
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • word learning
  • speaker benevolence
  • speaker certainty

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