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Volume 21 Issue 2 (March 2018), Pages

Acquisition of abstract concepts is influenced by emotional valence


There is considerable lack of evidence concerning the linguistic and cognitive skills underpinning abstract vocabulary acquisition. The present study considers the role of emotional valence in providing an embodied learning experience in which to anchor abstract meanings. First, analyses of adult ratings of age‐of‐acquisition, concreteness and valence demonstrate that abstract words acquired early tend to be emotionally valenced. Second, auditory Lexical Decision accuracies of children aged 6–7, 8–9, and 10–11 years (n = 20 per group) complement these analyses, demonstrating that emotional valence facilitates processing of abstract words, but not concrete. These findings provide the first evidence that young, school‐aged children are sensitive to emotional valence and that this facilitates acquisition of abstract words.

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