Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Parents Naming Objects Shapes Infants’ Development

22.07.2011
A study conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst psychologist Lisa Scott suggests that long before they are able to speak, infants hear words that shape their development in important ways. In an experiment, Scott found that the words parents use to name objects influence the developing brain and infants’ understanding of the world far earlier than researchers previously believed.

Scott’s results address a debate among research psychologists about the relation between the development of both language and concepts. While adults readily form abstract concepts of objects, animals, places and people, it has been unclear whether pre-verbal infants can do the same. Some researchers argue that infants under a year of age are extremely limited in their ability to use labels parents provide for objects to help them form concepts.

However, Scott’s experiment suggests that six- to nine-month-old infants are in fact using the labels they hear to form concepts of objects. She believes these early concepts form the basis for later learning. Her findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

“Our results suggest parents’ differential labeling of objects leads infants to form very different concepts and to have very different brain responses than when parents label all of the objects with the same name,” she says. “For example, learning that dogs are individuals named ‘Oliver’ or ‘Suzie’ leads to a different understanding of dogs than if all dogs are labeled ‘dog.’” Scott also points out that “sometimes learning individuals is more advantageous than learning categories of things. Learning to recognize individual faces is a prime example of this.”

In this study, Scott followed 38 infants from six to nine months of age. Parents brought their babies to the laboratory once at each of these ages; in between they read a picture book to their infants according to a training schedule. At the two visits to the lab, she measured babies’ ability to tell the difference between images of objects as well as their brain responses to the images.

To measure brain responses, Scott measured signals from 128 recording electrodes in a net-like hat on each baby’s head while he or she looked at photographs of upright or upside-down strollers. This assessed whether the infants exhibited holistic processing, or the tendency to ignore separate parts of an object and instead focus on the whole. Holistic processing is found in adults when they learn individual-level labels for objects. Prior to the training, brain responses of all infants in this experiment were similar.

For the training, Scott randomly assigned the infants to one of two learning groups. Parents of babies in each group were asked to read a picture book to their infants that included photos of six different strollers with labels. One group received a book in which the strollers were each labeled differently with nonsense names such as “Wuggum” or “Zoneep.” Parents in the other group read the same book to their babies except the six strollers were give one generic label, “stroller.”

Scott found that though none of the babies could tell the strollers apart when they were six months old, after training those who learned the different stroller names were able to distinguish between new pictures of strollers at nine months. By contrast, infants who heard the generic label for all strollers were not able to tell the new strollers apart.

Babies in the individual-label group significantly increased their ability to tell the strollers apart from 51 percent before training to 64.7 percent after, while infants who learned the generic labels showed no change, at 48 percent in both the pre- and post-test.

“These results are noteworthy because the strollers used in the discrimination task were not the same strollers as in the training book. Therefore infants took what they learned from the book and applied it to new pictures of strollers, suggesting the formation of a concept,” Scott says.

The findings from this study support her hypothesis that if infants learn different labels for the strollers their brains show a pattern of activity suggestive of holistic processing. This pattern is not present for infants who learned the generic level label. “By naming the strollers individually, parents taught their infants that each stroller is unique and inferred that it is important to know the difference between them.”

This is new evidence suggesting that conceptual learning begins early during the first year of life, even before infants can utter their first words. Scott suggests “parents should actively label objects, animals, people and places during the first year of life to promote conceptual development.”

In the future, the UMass Amherst research psychologist hopes to study what happens when babies are provided with individual-level labels for unfamiliar faces, for example people of a different race, to learn whether individual-level labeling will influence their recognition processing for faces of people they do not often encounter.

Lisa Scott | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umass.edu

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht New Master’s programme: University of Kaiserslautern educates experts in quantum technology
15.03.2017 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Decision-making research in children: Rules of thumb are learned with time
19.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>