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Exploring the Linguistic, Cognitive, and Social Skills Underlying Lexical Processing Efficiency as Measured by the Looking-while-Listening Paradigm

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2021

University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada
Ran WEI*
Harvard University, USA
Meredith L. ROWE
Harvard University, USA
Address for correspondence: Samuel Ronfard University of Toronto Mississauga 3359 Mississauga Road CCT Building, Room 4059 Mississauga, Ontario, L5L 1C6, Canada, E-mail:
Ran Wei Harvard University 20 University Road Room 608 Cambridge, MA 02138, United States, Email:


The looking-while-listening (LWL) paradigm is frequently used to measure toddlers’ lexical processing efficiency (LPE). Children's LPE is associated with vocabulary size, yet other linguistic, cognitive, or social skills contributing to LPE are not well understood. It also remains unclear whether LPE measures from two types of LWL trials (target-initial versus distractor-initial trials) are differentially associated with the abovementioned potential correlates of LPE. We tested 18- to 24-month-olds and found that children's word learning on a fast-mapping task was associated with LPE measures from all trials and distractor-initial trials but not target-initial trials. Children's vocabulary and pragmatic skills were both associated with their fast-mapping performance. Executive functions and pragmatic skills were associated with LPE measures from distractor-initial but not target-initial trials. Hence, LPE as measured by the LWL paradigm may reflect a constellation of skills important to language development. Methodological implications for future studies using the LWL paradigm are discussed.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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