‘Gaze Shifting’ Appears Important for Language Development “Gaze shifting”—a face-to-face interaction that facilitates social behavior—may play a key role in language development in infants, suggests new research from the University of Washington. In research from the school’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) published in Developmental Neuropsychology, researchers observed 17 10-month-olds interact with a foreign-language tutor. ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   November 01, 2015
‘Gaze Shifting’ Appears Important for Language Development
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Research in Brief   |   November 01, 2015
‘Gaze Shifting’ Appears Important for Language Development
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 10. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.20112015.10
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 10. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.20112015.10
“Gaze shifting”—a face-to-face interaction that facilitates social behavior—may play a key role in language development in infants, suggests new research from the University of Washington.
In research from the school’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) published in Developmental Neuropsychology, researchers observed 17 10-month-olds interact with a foreign-language tutor. “We found that the degree to which infants visually tracked the tutors and the toys they held was linked to brain measures of infant learning, showing that social behaviors give helpful information to babies in a complex natural language learning situation,” says Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the lab and co-author of the study.
I-LABS researchers have previously studied gaze shifting and language/social skills in preschool children, as well as the benefits of personal interaction compared to video or audio recordings. Co-author and research assistant professor Rechele Brooks says the team wanted to test the hypothesis that gaze shifting may be important when infants are first learning sounds of a new language.
In 12 25-minute sessions spanning four weeks, the babies (all from English-speaking households) interacted with Spanish-speaking tutors, who read books, talked and played with toys. The authors counted instances of eye-shifting, finding that the more infants shifted their gaze, the greater a response their brains showed to Spanish language sounds when measured by an electroencephalography cap at the end of the study.

The more the English-speaking infants shifted their gaze, the greater a response their brains showed to Spanish-language sounds.

The takeaway? “Babies learn best from people,” Brooks says. “During playtime your child is learning so much from you. Spending time with your child matters. Keeping them engaged—that’s what helps them learn language.”
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November 2015
Volume 20, Issue 11