Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What Are Babies Thinking Before They Start Talking?

23.07.2004


Babies as young as five months old make distinctions about categories of events that their parents do not, revealing new information about how language develops in humans. The research by Sue Hespos, assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, and Elizabeth Spelke, professor of psychology at Harvard University, was published in the July 22 issue of Nature in the article “Conceptual precursors to language.”

“It’s been shown in previous studies that adults actually categorize things differently based on what language they speak,” Hespos said. “So, if language is influencing adults’ thought, one of our questions was, what’s going on with preverbal infants? Do children think before they speak?

“Language capitalizes on a pre-existing system of ‘I live in a 3-D world, I know how objects behave and interact,’” she continued. “This pre-existing ability suggests that children do think before they speak.”



Previous research has found that infants are sensitive to the acoustic variations that signal meanings in all the world’s languages that adults can no longer hear, even those variations that their own language does not use and that the adults around them no longer hear. For instance, an adult native-English speaker will not hear all of the sounds of Korean and vice versa. Infants hear these subtleties but lose this awareness as their language skills develop over the first year of life.

“The languages of the world vary both in the sounds they require speakers to distinguish and in the meanings they require speakers to convey, and these differences influence what speakers of a language readily hear and think about,” Spelke said. “Our research asked how these differences arise: Does the experience of learning to speak English or Korean make you aware of the categories your language honors?”

The example they used to explore this question was differences between how different languages describe space. For example, the distinction between a tight fit versus a loose fit is marked in Korean but not in English. A cap on a pen would be a tight fit relationship, while a pen on a table would be a loose fit relationship. English does not mark this distinction in the same way, instead emphasizing the “containment” versus “support” relationship, for example: the coffee is in the mug or the mug is on the table.

Hespos and Spelke tested whether five-month-old infants from native English-speaking homes noticed whether objects fit tightly or loosely. The tests were based on infants’ tendency to look at events that they find to be novel. Infants were shown an object being placed inside a container that fit either tightly or loosely until the time they looked at the object being placed inside the container decreased. They were then shown new tight and loose fit relationships. The researchers found that the babies looked at the objects longer when there was a change between tight or loose fit, illustrating that they were detecting the Korean concept.

Hespos and Spelke also conducted the experiment with adults to confirm that English-speaking adults do not spontaneously make the tight versus loose fit distinction.

“Adults ignore tight fit versus loose fit and pay attention to ‘in’ versus ‘on,’” Hespos said. “Adults were glossing over the distinction that the babies were actually detecting.”

“These findings suggest that humans possess a rich set of concepts before we learn language,” Spelke added. “Learning a particular language may lead us to favor some of these concepts over others, but the concepts already existed before we put them into words.”

Hespos is a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development and the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center. Spelke is co-director of Harvard’s Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.vanderbilt.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular switch detects metals in the environment

15.08.2018 | Materials Sciences

Seeing on the Quick: New Insights into Active Vision in the Brain

15.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>