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Creators/Authors contains: "Schroer, Sara E."

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  1. Abstract

    Parental responsiveness to infant behaviors is a strong predictor of infants' language and cognitive outcomes. The mechanisms underlying this effect, however, are relatively unknown. We examined the effects of parent speech on infants' visual attention, manual actions, hand‐eye coordination, and dyadic joint attention during parent‐infant free play. We report on two studies that used head‐mounted eye trackers in increasingly naturalistic laboratory environments. In Study 1, 12‐to‐24‐month‐old infants and their parents played on the floor of a seminaturalistic environment with 24 toys. In Study 2, a different sample of dyads played in a home‐like laboratory with 10 toys and no restrictions on their movement. In both studies, we present evidence that responsive parent speech extends the duration of infants' multimodal attention. This social “boost” of parent speech impacts multiple behaviors that have been linked to later outcomes—visual attention, manual actions, hand‐eye coordination, and joint attention. Further, the amount that parents talked during the interaction was negatively related to the effects of parent speech on infant attention. Together, these results provide evidence of a trade‐off between quantity of speech and its effects, suggesting multiple pathways through which parents impact infants' multimodal attention to shape the moment‐by‐moment dynamics of an interaction.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Most research on early language learning focuses on the objects that infants see and the words they hear in their daily lives, although growing evidence suggests that motor development is also closely tied to language development. To study the real‐time behaviors required for learning new words during free‐flowing toy play, we measured infants’ visual attention and manual actions on to‐be‐learned toys. Parents and 12‐to‐26‐month‐old infants wore wireless head‐mounted eye trackers, allowing them to move freely around a home‐like lab environment. After the play session, infants were tested on their knowledge of object‐label mappings. We found that how often parents named objects during play did not predict learning, but instead, it was infants’ attention during and around a labeling utterance that predicted whether an object‐label mapping was learned. More specifically, we found that infant visual attention alone did not predict word learning. Instead, coordinated, multimodal attention–when infants’ hands and eyes were attending to the same object–predicted word learning. Our results implicate a causal pathway through which infants’ bodily actions play a critical role in early word learning.

     
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