Current Studies

"Finding Words in Two Languages"

In the process of learning language, infants must begin to find individual words in fluent speech. This is difficult for anyone hearing a new language, as speech does not typically contain clear cues, such as pauses, to indicate where one word ends and another begins. Infants can overcome this challenge by attending to natural patterns in language. For instance, infants can keep track of how consistently sounds and syllables occur together in speech, and in turn use that information to identify individual words. Although these regularities can be used to find words in one language, tracking the same relationships across multiple languages seems like it would be more difficult. It is important to understand how infants accomplish this feat, as a majority of the world’s children grow up learning two or more languages. In this study, we will present infants with two made-up languages. While they are listening, we expect that they will learn which syllables consistently occur together in the speech. This pattern should help them identify the languages’ individual words. Afterwards, we will test whether infants recognize words from both languages. We anticipate that children from bilingual environments will able to identify words in both languages, as they have experience tracking information in two or more languages at home.

"What is this?! Que es esto?!"

Infants learn new labels, such as "cat" or "dog" for the things in their environment on a daily basis. This study evaluates if children are able to learn multiple names of individual objects, such as "gato" in Spanish, and "cat" in English by simulating a bilingual environment. Participants are presented with two objects on a screen and given labels for each of them, but some of the objects are given multiple labels. Across examples, the object and label pair will appear in many different environments. However, the repeated appearance of the pairings will allow the child to make associations and figure out which labels correspond to which objects.  Finally, to test what they’ve associated, two objects are presented on the screen, but only one label.  We see if the child recognizes which object corresponds to the label being presented by evaluating how long he/she looks at each object.  We expect them to look longer at the object whose label is being spoken.  We also predict that bilingual kids will be able to learn the names for objects with multiple labels more easily than monolingual kids due to their experience learning words in two languages.

"Non-Native Sounds as Words"

In this study, we wish to test whether exposure to a familiar context will facilitate infants’ learning of unfamiliar phonological labels and their novel object pairings. First, we will expose infants to familiar objects with their known labels ("kitty","dog", "car", and "baby") We expect that presenting familiar objects with their associated labels will allow infants to generalize this word-to-object association pattern across all phases of the experiment, even if the words and labels are unfamiliar to them. This should then aid infants in mapping unfamiliar labels to novel objects. During the learning phase of the experiment, we will present infants with unfamiliar, non-native sounds and pair them with ambiguous objects on the screen, followed by a test phase to see whether they've made the unfamiliar word-to-object association.

"Pattern Detection"

We are studying how babies learn from the patterns in their environments. In this study, we will present a set of shapes that appear in consistent sequences. For example, a red square was followed by a blue triangle, which was followed by a pink L-shape. Each shape also had a consistent silly face on it—like a line drawn smiling face, face with it’s tongue out, or mouth open wide. We are examining how much detail infants attend to when they learn these patterns. In the first part of the study, we show consistent sequences over and over again. Then, in test trials, we show trials that either matched the pattern we just trained the infant on or trials that appear in a novel order than the one the infants were taught. We know that babies can actually pick up on these kinds of patterns in just a few minutes and will look longer on the trials that break the rules of the pattern. However, in this experiment during the testing phase, all of the faces are scrambled so that they are no longer paired with their original shape. Because of this scrambling, we’ve designed a really challenging learning test. Now, we want to know—do they pay such close attention when learning the patterns that when the faces are all mixed up, they no longer recognize the trained patterns or can they ignore the faces and just pay attention to the shapes.