The Role of Referential Intention as a Component of Joint Attention in Object-Label Association and Shared Knowledge Acquisition
Discrepancies in the evidence for the influence of joint attention on lexical acquisition seem to have two causes: the variety of possible lexical acquisition outcomes (formation of an association between an object and a word, or emergence of a unit of the symbolic system) and variety in the contents of joint attention (the act of naming, the using of an object, events involving the object). In this study, we varied the moment when an object was named (familiarization with the object; using the object; removing the object). We suppose that providing children with referential intention cues, which are involved in an object’s familiarization, facilitates their discerning of the word as a sign in the symbolic system, in contrast to the joint attention without this component. Based on our results, the choice of an object as a referent of the heard label showed that children established object-label matching in all conditions. The test for the mutual exclusivity phenomenon was passed only in the familiarization condition. Thus, drawing a child’s attention to the act of naming is critical for the formation of a new unit in the symbolic system; that is, for shared knowledge acquisition.