Sensitivity of 24-Month-Olds to the Prior Inaccuracy of the Source: Possible Mechanisms

Melissa A. Koenig, Amanda L. Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Three studies examined 24-month-olds' sensitivity to the prior accuracy of the source of information and the way in which young children modify their word learning from inaccurate sources. In Experiments 1A, 2, and 3, toddlers interacted with an accurate or inaccurate speaker who trained and tested children's comprehension of a new word-object link. In Experiment 1, children performed less systematically in response to an inaccurate than to an accurate source. In Experiments 2 and 3, after toddlers' comprehension of the new word-object links was tested by the original source, a second speaker requested the target objects. In Experiment 2, children responded randomly in response to the second speaker's requests when novel words were previously presented by an inaccurate source. In Experiment 3, toddlers responded randomly in response to both speakers in the inaccurate condition when their memory for words was taxed by a brief delay period. Taken together, these findings suggest that toddlers attend to accuracy information, that they treat inaccuracy as a feature of a particular individual, and that the word-object representations formed as a result may be fragile and short lived. Findings are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms by which children adjust their word learning from problematic speakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-826
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Selective learning
  • Selective trust
  • Toddlers
  • Word learning


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