Tablet assessment of word comprehension reveals coarse word representations in 18–⁠20‐month‐old toddlers

Journal article by Chang Huan Lo, Jun Ho Chai, Julien Mayor and Natalia Kartushina in Infancy, published January 31, 2021.

Logo of the journal Infancy. Black silhouette of a child holding a red teddy bear next to the letters ICIS.


The present study explores the viability of using tablets in assessing early word comprehension by means of a two‐alternative forced‐choice task. Forty‐nine 18–20‐month‐old Norwegian toddlers performed a touch‐based word recognition task, in which they were prompted to identify the labeled target out of two displayed items on a touchscreen tablet. In each trial, the distractor item was either semantically related (e.g., dog–cat) or unrelated (e.g., dog–airplane) to the target. Our results show that toddlers as young as 18 months can engage meaningfully with a tablet‐based assessment, with minimal verbal instruction and child–administrator interaction. Toddlers performed better in the semantically unrelated condition than in the related condition, suggesting that their word representations are still semantically coarse at this age. Furthermore, parental reports of comprehension, using the Norwegian version of the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories, predicted toddlers’ performance, with parent–child agreement stronger in the semantically unrelated condition, indicating that parents declare a word to be known by their child if it is understood at a coarse representational level. This study provides among the earliest evidence that remote data collection in 18‐20 month‐old toddlers is viable, as comparable results were observed from both in‐laboratory and online administration of the touchscreen recognition task.

Read more in Infancy at Wiley Online Library.

Published May 27, 2021 2:09 PM - Last modified June 1, 2021 12:08 PM