Developmental Science

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Volume 21 Issue 2 (March 2018), Pages

Maturation constrains the effect of exposure in linking language and thought: evidence from healthy preterm infants


The power of human language rests upon its intricate links to human cognition. By 3 months of age, listening to language supports infants’ ability to form object categories, a building block of cognition. Moreover, infants display a systematic shift between 3 and 4 months – a shift from familiarity to novelty preferences – in their expression of this link between language and core cognitive processes. Here, we capitalize on this tightly‐timed developmental shift in fullterm infants to assess (a) whether it also appears in preterm infants and (b) whether it reflects infants’ maturational status or the duration of their postnatal experience. Healthy late preterm infants (= 22) participated in an object categorization task while listening to language. Their performance, coupled with that of fullterm infants, reveals that this developmental shift is evident in preterm infants and unfolds on the same maturational timetable as in their fullterm counterparts.

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