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The role of emotional valence in learning novel abstract concepts

Ponari, Marta, Norbury, Courtenay, Vigliocco, Gabriella (2020) The role of emotional valence in learning novel abstract concepts. Developmental Psychology, 56 (10). pp. 1855-1865. ISSN 0012-1649. (doi:10.1037/dev0001091) (KAR id:81833)

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A recent study by Ponari et al. (2017), showed that emotional valence (i.e., whether a word evokes positive, negative or no affect) predicts age-of-acquisition ratings, and that up to the age of 8-9, children know abstract emotional words better than neutral ones. On the basis of these findings, emotional valence has been argued to provide a bootstrapping mechanism for the acquisition of abstract concepts. However, no previous work has directly assessed whether words’ valence, or valence of the context in which words are used, facilitates learning of unknown abstract words. Here, we investigate whether valence supports acquisition of novel abstract concepts. Seven to 10 years old children were taught novel abstract words and concepts (words typically learnt at an older age and that children did not know); words were either valenced (positive or negative) or neutral. We also manipulated the context in which words were presented: for one group of children, the teaching strategy emphasised emotional information; for the other, it emphasised encyclopaedic, non-emotional information. Abstract words with emotional valence were learnt better than neutral abstract words by children up to the age of 8-9, replicating previous findings; no effect of teaching strategy was found. These results indicate that emotional valence supports abstract concepts acquisition, and further suggest that it is the valence information intrinsic to the word’s meaning to have a role, rather than the valence of the context in which the word is learnt.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1037/dev0001091
Uncontrolled keywords: vocabulary acquisition; abstract concepts; children; emotional valence
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Marta Ponari
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2020 14:03 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2021 12:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Ponari, Marta:
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