Children's control over attention to phonological and semantic properties of words
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A study is reported in which children from 5 to 9 years old were examined as they gained awareness and control over the phonological and semantic properties of isolated words. Children were asked to match a stimulus word on the basis of either its sound or its meaning under conditions that varied in their support for the correct answer. The results are presented as discriminability data, indicating the child's ability to distinguish these properties under the different experimental conditions. Although all the children could select either of these properties in a simple control condition, adding various levels of distraction interrupted their ability to attend to the requested feature. In the age range examined, the youngest children were unable to attend selectively to either feature, older children adopted a default or bias to phonological properties, and only the oldest children were able to attend to meaning as well as sound. Even for the oldest children, however, performance was far from perfect.
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