Current studies

We study the development of communication, cognition, and language. Over the first years, infants develop increasingly sophisticated means of communicating, from babbling to early words to language. We seek to understand the mechanisms by which communicative and cognitive development take place.

A theme of our research is the influence of the social environment on infant development.


Social Experience in Early Attention and Learning
Participants: Infants aged 6-7 months
Duration: two 30-minute visits, with one or both parentsHow does social learning influence the development of attention? During the first visit, you and your baby will play together as you would at home.  During the second visit, your baby will play for 10 minutes with an experimenter who will vary the timing of her interactions. Then, your baby will each sit on your lap and view a series of short videos of toys and animals on screens set up in different parts of the room, and we’ll observe infant attention to the videos.  The study will allow us to understand how changes in social interactions influence infants’ visual attention.

Vocal Learning with New Social Partners
Participants: Infants aged 7-8 months
Duration: two 45-minute visits, with one or both of their parents

What features of social interaction help infants learn language? To explore this question, you and your infant will interact with different types of social partners. On the first visit, you and your infant will play together in our playroom just as you would at home. Then, on the second visit, we will introduce your infant to a new interaction partner, either another researcher or an interesting toy, a remote-controlled car. Your infant and the new adult or the car will engage in a series of interactive games. These games will allow us to investigate what types of social interactions are most helpful to infants in the process of developing language.

Adults’ Responses to Prelinguistic Infants
Participants: Fathers of infants aged 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 months
Duration: One 30-minute visit

Is baby babbling communicative? Do different forms of infant babbling change the behavior of their parents? In what contexts do infant vocalizations elicit stronger reactions from parents? In this study, fathers will use a computer to respond to prerecorded examples of infant behavior.

The impact of social reward and the environment on learning
Participants: Infants 14-18 months old
Duration: One 30-minute visit

Do social interactions influence infants’ word learning? You and your infant will play together in a a playroom as you would at home. We will then play a video to teach your child a new label for each of two novel objects.  We will test what infants have learned by playing them a video of the objects and observing their attention to the video.

Learning from Visual Media
Participants: Children 18-months old or 30-months-old
Duration: One 40-minute visit

Do children learn better from live interactions or prerecorded ones? This study examines how children learn from instruction via face-to-face interaction or prerecorded video. Your child will watch either a live or prerecorded experimenter assemble a toy. Your child will then be able to assemble with the same toy. The study will tell us what features of interactions help children learn.