Children's Language Acquisition

Cultural Bias.during Word Learning

2011 - 2012

supervisor: Dr. Douglas A. Behrend


Children are known to use various learning biases to efficiently develop their language skills. Prior studies have confirmed that young children keep track of reliability histories of possible teachers in order to selectively learn words. Furthermore, it has been shown that they are less likely to learn from foreign language speakers or foreign names of objects. Recent studies even indicated that children seem to change their patterns of learning just by hearing the cultural background of the target objects. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the cultural bias in word learning among 2- to 3-year-olds. We hypothesized that children would be less likely to learn object names and functions when they were told those objects and/or the teacher were from another country. The result of the experiment showed no evidence to support this hypothesis; however, we found that participants performed very poorly in the novel word learning task, yet very well on the novel function learning task. Possible reasons for these findings are discussed.

1. Introduction

Reliability of Teachers

Sabbagh and Baldwin (2001)

Koenig and Harris (2005)

Cultural Bias

Behrend, Ransom, Schwartz, & Bogulski (2010)

Henderson and Sabbagh (2007)

2. Current Study



3. Method


Variables in the experiment

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 mixed factorial design

Familiarization trial

Test trial

4. Results & Discussion



5. Conclusion


Possible confounding & improvements