Infants hear thousands of words every day. How do they match the words they hear to the intended referents? We document the natural synchrony between caregivers’ language input and infants’ actions (e.g., caregiver says “press” just as infant presses a piano key), and test how this synchrony facilitates word learning.
During the first three years of life, infants’ bodies and motor abilities change dramatically. Infants learn to sit up, crawl, reach for objects, and walk upright. Each new motor skill enables infants to engage with the objects and people around them in new ways. We test how motor skill acquisitions create new opportunities for social interaction and language learning.
Infant learning occurs amidst the commotion and clutter of daily life—in homes brimming with toys, household objects, people, and pets. To understand infant behavior in an ecological context, we observe infants and their caregivers as they go about their daily routines, engaging in play, chores, meal-times, and other activities.
Developmental process in autism
Infants show substantial variation in the way they acquire language, and many factors—including infants’ neurocognitive functioning—can shape word learning processes. To understand variability in language learning, we study autisitic infants, neurotypical infants, infants with language delay, and infants with a family history of autism.
In addition to adult caregivers, later-born infants interact with (and potentially learn from) their older siblings. Do infants’ interactions with their siblings influence their communication, language learning, and motor behaviors? We observe naturalistic interactions between sibling pairs and their adult caregivers at home.
Infants’ view is critical for word learning. For example, infants learn nouns most successfully when the named object is prominent in view. Using head-mounted eye-tracking, we document how infants’ body position—whether they’re sitting, standing, or on all fours—influences the quality of infants’ view during word learning.