The development of the ability to recognize the meaning of iconic signs.
Early developmental psychologists viewed iconic representation as cognitively less complex than other forms of symbolic thought. It is therefore surprising that iconic signs are not acquired more easily than arbitrary signs by young language learners. One explanation is that children younger than 3 years have difficulty interpreting iconicity. The current study assessed hearing children's ability to interpret the meaning of iconic signs. Sixty-six 2.5- to 5-year-olds who had no previous exposure to signs were required to match iconic signs to pictures of referents. Whereas few of the 2.5-year-olds recognized the meaning of the iconic signs consistently, more than half of the 3.0-year-olds and most of 3.5-year-olds performed above chance. Thus, the ability to recognize the meaning of iconic signs gradually develops during the preschool years. Implications of these findings for sign language development, receptive signed vocabulary tests, and the development of the ability to interpret iconic symbols are discussed.
Tolar, TD; Lederberg, AR; Gokhale, S; Tomasello, M
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