Young children learn new words rapidly and with little
effort. One way researchers study this so called "vocabulary explosion" is to present children with two objects, one of which has
a known name (e.g., a cup) and one that doesn’t (e.g., the object pictured on
the right). When asked, “Which one is a zimbidy?”, children will choose the latter (i.e., the one they don't know the name for). Research into children’s word learning suggests that this
tendency to assume novel labels refer to novel objects may be one explanation for
the rapid growth in young children’s vocabulary.
Our research often involves teaching children made-up names (e.g., zimbidy) for novel objects (like the one shown above). Using this paradigm, we can examine underlying processes involved in word learning, metacognition, and categorization.