More than meets the eye: The role of language in binding and maintaining feature conjunctions: Research article

Banchiamlack Dessalegn, Barbara Landau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We investigated the effects of language on vision by focusing on a well-known problem: the binding and maintenance of color-location conjunctions. Four-year-olds performed a task in which they saw a target (e.g., a split square, red on the left and green on the right) followed by a brief delay and then were asked to find the target in an array including the target, its reflection (e.g., red on the right and green on the left), and a square with a different geometric split. Errors were overwhelmingly reflections. This finding shows that the children failed to maintain color-location conjunctions. Performance improved when targets were accompanied by sentences specifying color and direction (e.g., "the red is on the left"), but not when the conjunction was highlighted using a nonlinguistic cue (e.g., flashing, pointing, changes in size), nor when sentences specified a nondirectional relationship (e.g., "the red is touching the green"). The relation between children's matching performance and their long-term knowledge of directional terms suggests two distinct mechanisms by which language can temporarily bridge delays, providing more stable representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-195
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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