Can you match a spoken word with the item that represents it?

Rapid Naming tests your ability to connect visual and verbal information by giving the appropriate names to common objects, colors, letters, and digits. While the matching itself is pretty easy – “man” corresponds to the round shape with two eyes and a mouth – the real challenge lies in speed. How quickly can you do it? In everyday life, objects appear in a wide variety of environments, orientations, and appearances. Despite this, people are remarkably fast at naming them.

Language works by representing things, and children first learn this by naming. As young children begin to speak, they learn the names of common items in the environment, such as “cat” and “dog.” They gradually learn to extend these names to more and more situations: even though other household felines may be bigger or smaller, with different fur and different eyes, they still warrant the name “cat.” The child learns that she can refer to a cat even when it isn’t present, just as she will later learn that she can write the word “cat” in the absence of its spoken name.

In order to become skilled users of language, we must use names automatically. It would be pretty hard to communicate if we had to say “I like small four-legged animals who purr and meow and scratch, and whose fur can be gray, black, brown, orange, or white.” It would be equally hard if it took us a full minute to say “I like…c…ca…cats?” The ability to name items rapidly and automatically means that we can focus our efforts on higher-level skills. To express a thought about cats, you must say “cat” without thinking too hard. Similarly, to recognize a printed word or solve a math problem, you must identify letters and digits almost instantaneously. The failure to make these skills quick and automatic can make subsequent learning very difficult, and many young children with rapid naming difficulties later develop learning and reading problems.

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