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The Symbolism of Pictures. Clara Yoon Nathan Winkler-Rhoades. What are symbols?. Something that stands for something else Not necessarily similar to their referent Not natural – Created Use of symbols ~ 18 months Words, gestures, pictures?. By 18 months….

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the symbolism of pictures

The Symbolism of Pictures

Clara Yoon

Nathan Winkler-Rhoades

what are symbols
What are symbols?
  • Something that stands for something else
  • Not necessarily similar to their referent
  • Not natural – Created
  • Use of symbols ~ 18 months
    • Words, gestures, pictures?
by 18 months
By 18 months…
  • Words are interpreted referentially (Xu, et al. 2005)
    • Paradigm: Two-word trial, One-word trial
    • Surprised when # of kinds didn’t match # of labels
    • At chance for emotional expressions
    • Works at 10 months
  • Iconic gestures are recognized (Tomasello et al., 1999)
    • Children take a hammering motion as referring to hammers, e.g.
pictures as symbols
Pictures as Symbols
  • Why are we interested in pictures?
    • Different from other symbols?
      • On one theory, pictures are more salient as objects than words or gestures, and hence harder to see as symbols
  • Pictures present a puzzle:
    • Innate ability to perceive content of pictures(Hochberg and Brookes 1969)
    • Yet apparent difficulty understanding that they refer to the world
      • ‘Pygmalion’ errors(DeLoache, et al. 1998)
      • Dollhouse task failure until 30 months (DeLoache, 1991, 2000)
pictures as symbols1
Pictures as Symbols
  • To review:
  • At first, mistake for actual referents
  • Somehow eventually, like adults, children recognize symbols as representations
    • Dual representation
  • At what point recognize symbolic significance?
role of language
Role of Language
  • Language plays role?
    • Attract attention
    • Mediates reference
  • Evidence of its importance
    • Callaghan (2000)
      • Match picture with object
      • Only success when lexical labels could individuate them
      • Only when familiar
    • Winkler-Rhoades
      • No label, designate map for placing doll, not targets
      • Unfamiliar, need labels (?)
isu questions
ISU - Questions
  • How do we learn that pictures can refer to things? That they can inform us about how the world is?
  • Does language play a role in helping children figure out representational status of pictures?
xu and baker 2005
Xu and Baker (2005)
  • Modified manual search procedure
  • To understand how infants use property or kind info for object individuation
xu and baker 2005 results
Xu and Baker (2005) Results
  • Infants looked longer on switch trials
  • Labels did not matter
  • Familiarity did not matter
  • For us, important to establish that they would be surprised at switch trials
isu pilot method
ISU – Pilot Method
  • 18 month olds
  • 11 in familiar label, 7 in novel label, 7 in novel no label
  • Very similar to Xu and Baker (2005)
    • Box and novel objects
    • Switch trials and non-switch trials
    • Familiar, unfamiliar
    • Labeled, unlabeled
  • Who wants to be a baby?





isu pilot alternatives logic
ISU - Pilot Alternatives/Logic
  • Longer reaching time on Switch than No Switch
    • Expect the same object to be present, confused
  • No difference in reaching time between Switch and No Switch (at chance)
    • No expectations on what object should be present
    • Perhaps just interest in reaching, or not reaching
labels familiar alternatives

Increased recognition of symbolic significance

At chance


Increased recognition of symbolic significance

At chance

Labels/Familiar Alternatives
isu method
ISU - Method
  • Same general procedure
  • Use pictures instead of first object remove/replace
  • Still Switch/No Switch trials
  • Still novel objects
  • Familiar/Unfamiliar
  • Label/No label
isu alternatives logic
ISU – Alternatives/Logic
  • Could use picture as symbol
    • On Switch trials, longer reaching time
    • Use picture to signify one object inside
    • Confusion on why other object
  • Could NOT use picture as symbol
    • No difference in reaching times between Switch and No Switch
      • Doesn’t use picture as information at all
      • No expectations
      • At chance
further directions
Further Directions
  • Specific/generic?
  • Older/younger?
  • Within same kind?
  • Any ideas from you?