Learning in context: Linguistic and attentional constraints on children's color term learning

Catherine G. O'Hanlon, Debi Roberson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (SciVal)


Three experiments investigated whether linguistic and/or attentional constraints might account for preschoolers' difficulties when learning color terms. Task structure and demands were equated across experiments, and both speed and degree of learning were compared. In Experiment 1, 3-year-olds who were matched on vocabulary score were taught new secondary color terms by corrective, semantic, or referential linguistic contrast. Corrective contrast produced more rapid and more extensive learning than did either semantic or referential contrast, supporting the hypothesis that targeted linguistic feedback facilitates learning. Experiment 2 replicated and extended the first experiment with Italian children and found cross-cultural differences in the amount learned about colors named differently in the two languages. In Experiment 3, some of the children were introduced to the new terms within a context of enhanced perceptual salience. These children learned as fast and performed as accurately as those given corrective linguistic feedback in Experiment 1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-300
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • Attention
  • Color categorization
  • Color terms
  • Linguistic contrast
  • Mutual exclusivity
  • Perceptual salience
  • Vocabulary
  • Mental Recall
  • Verbal Learning
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Male
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Language
  • Feedback
  • Semantics
  • Individuality
  • Female
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Color Perception


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning in context: Linguistic and attentional constraints on children's color term learning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this