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The effect of shyness on children's formation and retention of novel word–object mappings*



This study set out to examine whether shyness, an aversion to novelty and unfamiliar social situations, can affect the processes that underlie early word learning. Twenty-four-month-old children (n =32) were presented with sets of one novel and two familiar objects, and it was found that shyer children were less likely to select a novel object as the referent of a novel label. Furthermore, not-shy children then showed evidence of retaining these novel mappings, but shy children did not. These findings suggest that shy children's aversion to novelty and to the unfamiliar context can impact on their word learning.

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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.

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Matt Hilton, Universität Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24-25, OT Golm, 14476 Potsdam, Germany. e-mail:


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Matt Hilton is now in the Department of Psychology at the University of Potsdam, Germany. This research was supported in part by the ESRC (LuCiD; ES/L008955/1).



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The effect of shyness on children's formation and retention of novel word–object mappings*



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