Document Type


Publication Date



School of Education Counseling and Psychology in Education


Scaffolding, Word learning, Symbolic development, Video


Developmental Psychology


Young children struggle to learn new words presented on video, but adult co-viewers can support them by providing scaffolds that explicitly connect the video and real world. In this study, we asked whether scaffolding facilitates children’s symbolic understanding of the video, such that they will subsequently transfer labels from video to real referents. Sixty-three 30-month-olds and 61 36-month-olds participated in a series of three word learning trials in one of three conditions. In the supportive condition, an in-person adult explicitly drew connections between each on-screen object and the corresponding real object in the room with the child. In the unsupportive condition, the in-person adult provided similar-length statements about the objects but did not draw connections between them. In the partial scaffold condition, the in-person adult provided the supportive scaffolds for the first two trials and the unsupportive version for the third trial. At 30 months, children selected the correct object on the third trial more often in the supportive than the unsupportive scaffold condition, and performance in the partial scaffold condition fell in between. At 36 months, performance on the third trial did not differ across conditions. The results showed that experiencing the scaffold twice was not enough to reliably support 30-month-olds in learning to think symbolically on the third trial; rather, they appeared to rely on the adult to connect the video image with its specific real-world referent. At 36 months, however, children did not rely on the adult scaffold to apply the video label to the real-world objects.

Publication Title

Infant Behavior and Development



First Page



© 2021. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license



Study pre-registration and materials can be viewed at

Available for download on Tuesday, August 01, 2023