Individual differences in nonverbal prediction and vocabulary size in infancy

Tracy Reuter, Lauren Emberson, Alexa Romberg, Casey Lew-Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Children who generate and update verbal predictions have larger vocabularies, suggesting that prediction may be a mechanism that supports language learning. We hypothesize that this relation is not confined to the domain of language, but instead signals a broader individual difference in information processing. To investigate this possibility, we tested infants (n = 50) in the early stages of vocabulary development (12–24 months) on their ability to generate and update nonverbal, visual predictions. In an eye-tracking task, a central fixation reliably preceded a peripheral target. Then, halfway through the experiment, the peripheral target began appearing on the opposite side. We assessed infants’ proficiency in initiating anticipatory eye movements before and after the switch, and found that infants with larger vocabularies did not generate more predictions overall, but were more efficient in updating predictions to the new target side. These findings establish a link between nonverbal prediction and vocabulary in infancy, and suggest a promising means of addressing whether or not prediction abilities are causally related to language learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-219
Number of pages5
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Individual differences
  • Language development
  • Learning
  • Nonverbal
  • Prediction
  • Visual


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