Talking About Near and Dear

A research study published in Developmental Psychology investigated the role of familiarity and proximity in infants’ comprehension of displaced speech. When 13- and 16-month-old infants heard a researcher talk about a familiar person immediately after she left the room, they showed comprehension of the name by looking, pointing, or searching for the person in question. The majority of 16-month-olds were also able to reveal comprehension of the reference to the absent person after a 16-min delay, and they were able to respond to the name of an unfamiliar person as well. The 13-month-olds had more difficulty responding after the delay and to the name of a less familiar person. Thus, in the early phases of absent reference comprehension, infants’ ability to respond to displaced speech can vary as a function of the temporal gap between the verbal reference and the last appearance of the referent, and of how strong their representation of the referent is.

For the abstract


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