Abstract

It has been debated whether acquiring verbal labels helps infants' visual processing and categorization of objects. Using electroencephalography, we investigated whether possessing or learning verbal labels for objects directly enhances one-year-old infants' neural processes underlying the perception of those objects. We found enhanced gamma-band (20 to 60 Hz) oscillatory activity over the visual cortex in response to seeing objects whose names one-year-old infants knew (Experiment 1), or for which they had just been taught a label (Experiment 2). No such effect was observed for objects with which the infants were simply familiar without having a label for them. These results demonstrate that learning verbal labels modulates how the visual system processes the images of the associated objects, and suggest a possible route of top-down influence of semantic knowledge on object perception.