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Learning Words by Inference More Powerful for Toddlers

ar and strange objects (for instance, a ball and a plumber's 'T' connector).

After saying a nonsense word (blicket for instance), she would ask them to either point to or grab the "matching" item. Since a ball is a "ball," the children might conclude that the unfamiliar object -- the "T" -- was the "blicket". In the direct instruction trial, the child was simply shown an unfamiliar item and heard the nonsense word. But the recollection was not as effective.

Halberda, Brinster's mentor, called his student's results "important".

"While we know that active engagement is the key to rapid learning," he said adding, "Meredith's result suggesting that knowledge gained via a child's own inferences is sometimes more powerful and longer lasting than knowledge gained through instruction may have powerful repercussions for how we teach new material. These implications have yet to be explored, but this first result is tantalising."
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