Borgström, Torkildsen, Lindgren: Event-related potentials during word mapping to object shape predict toddlers’ vocabulary size
Kristina Borgström, Janne Von Koss Torkildsen and Magnus Lindgren
Frontiers in Psychology. 6:143. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00143
What role does attention to different object properties play in early vocabulary development? This longitudinal study using event-related potentials in combination with behavioral measures investigated 20- and 24-month-olds’ (n = 38; n = 34; overlapping n = 24) ability to use object shape and object part information in word-object mapping. The N400 component was used to measure semantic priming by images containing shape or detail information. At 20 months, the N400 to words primed by object shape varied in topography and amplitude depending on vocabulary size, and these differences predicted productive vocabulary size at 24 months. At 24 months, when most of the children had vocabularies of several hundred words, the relation between vocabulary size and the N400 effect in a shape context was weaker. Detached object parts did not function as word primes regardless of age or vocabulary size, although the part-objects were identified behaviorally. The behavioral measure, however, also showed relatively poor recognition of the part-objects compared to the shape-objects. These three findings provide new support for the link between shape recognition and early vocabulary development.