Two-year-olds’ eye movements reflect confidence in their understanding of words

Isabelle Dautriche*, Louise Goupil, Kenny Smith, Hugh Rabagliati

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied the fundamental issue of whether children evaluate the reliability of their language interpretation, that is, their confidence in understanding words. In two experiments, 2-year-olds (Experiment 1: N = 50; Experiment 2: N = 60) saw two objects and heard one of them being named; both objects were then hidden behind screens and children were asked to look toward the named object, which was eventually revealed. When children knew the label used, they showed increased postdecision persistence after a correct compared with an incorrect anticipatory look, a marker of confidence in word comprehension (Experiment 1). When interacting with an unreliable speaker, children showed accurate word comprehension but reduced confidence in the accuracy of their own choice, indicating that children’s confidence estimates are influenced by social information (Experiment 2). Thus, by the age of 2 years, children can estimate their confidence during language comprehension, long before they can talk about their linguistic skills.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Science
Early online date20 Sep 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sep 2022


  • language processing
  • decision confidence
  • core metacognition
  • word learning
  • selective learning
  • looking-while-listening


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