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Children's gradient sensitivity to phonological mismatch: Considering the dynamics of looking behavior and pupil dilation

Lookup NU author(s): Katalin Tamasi, Professor Cristina McKeanORCiD



© Cambridge University Press 2018 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In a preferential looking paradigm, we studied how children's looking behavior and pupillary response were modulated by the degree of phonological mismatch between the correct label of a target referent and its manipulated form. We manipulated degree of mismatch by introducing one or more featural changes to the target label. Both looking behavior and pupillary response were sensitive to degree of mismatch, corroborating previous studies that found differential responses in one or the other measure. Using time-course analyses, we present for the first time results demonstrating full separability among conditions (detecting difference not only between one vs. more, but also between two and three featural changes). Furthermore, the correct labels and small featural changes were associated with stable target preference, while large featural changes were associated with oscillating looking behavior, suggesting significant shifts in looking preference over time. These findings further support and extend the notion that early words are represented in great detail, containing subphonemic information.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tamasi K, McKean C, Gafos A, Hohle B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Child Language

Year: 2018

Volume: 46

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-23

Print publication date: 01/01/2019

Online publication date: 04/09/2018

Acceptance date: 23/05/2018

Date deposited: 06/07/2018

ISSN (print): 0305-0009

ISSN (electronic): 1469-7602

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0305000918000259


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