How do we learn the names of new objects?

    • Topic: Cognitive Development

    • Location: Hall of Human Life

    Previous research has shown that we often use gestures to describe new objects and ideas before we use words. This is true for children who are just learning to speak, as well as older children and adults learning about new things. We are interested in whether the way you are taught about new objects influences how well you remember them.

    In this study, people (age 4 and up) will be shown four new objects and will learn a label for each one. Different people will learn different labels. After a brief break, we will ask people to remember the labels they were taught. People may be asked to name the objects or match them to their label.

    We predict that learning gestures will make remembering easier than learning words. We also believe that gestures and words that have similarities with the shape of the object will be easier to remember.

    The results of this study will help us better understand how people learn about new objects. We hope that our results will help teachers and scientists improve how they teach in order to help people learn more quickly and remember new things more easily.

    Boston University Developing Minds Lab

        » Developing Minds Lab

    Activities to Try in the Hall of Human Life

    Tamarin Talk

    Find the cotton-top tamarins inside the Hall of Human Life. Observe the tamarins inside the exhibit and think about how they communicate with each other. Are they making any noises (it might be hard to hear, but take a look at their mouths)? What strategies can you see a tamarin use to get another tamarin’s attention? Do they do anything that looks like a gesture? Can you think of other ways they might be communicating?

    Activities to Try at Home

    Talking with Your Hands

    Find a friend or talk with your child about how we can talk without words. What kind of gestures can you think of that help us communicate with each other?

    Try communicating using only gestures. How do you know what the other person is trying to communicate? What makes some gestures easier to understand than others? Are some concepts easier to communicate with gestures?

Research Spotlight

Contact Living Laboratory staff:

livinglaboratory@mos.org