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      Skype me! Socially contingent interactions help toddlers learn language.

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          Abstract

          Language learning takes place in the context of social interactions, yet the mechanisms that render social interactions useful for learning language remain unclear. This study focuses on whether social contingency might support word learning. Toddlers aged 24-30 months (N = 36) were exposed to novel verbs in one of three conditions: live interaction training, socially contingent video training over video chat, and noncontingent video training (yoked video). Results suggest that children only learned novel verbs in socially contingent interactions (live interactions and video chat). This study highlights the importance of social contingency in interactions for language learning and informs the literature on learning through screen media as the first study to examine word learning through video chat technology.

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          Most cited references 55

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          Eye contact detection in humans from birth.

          Making eye contact is the most powerful mode of establishing a communicative link between humans. During their first year of life, infants learn rapidly that the looking behaviors of others conveys significant information. Two experiments were carried out to demonstrate special sensitivity to direct eye contact from birth. The first experiment tested the ability of 2- to 5-day-old newborns to discriminate between direct and averted gaze. In the second experiment, we measured 4-month-old infants' brain electric activity to assess neural processing of faces when accompanied by direct (as opposed to averted) eye gaze. The results show that, from birth, human infants prefer to look at faces that engage them in mutual gaze and that, from an early age, healthy babies show enhanced neural processing of direct gaze. The exceptionally early sensitivity to mutual gaze demonstrated in these studies is arguably the major foundation for the later development of social skills.
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            Foreign-language experience in infancy: effects of short-term exposure and social interaction on phonetic learning.

             P K Kuhl,  F.-M. Tsao,  H-M Liu (2011)
            Infants acquire language with remarkable speed, although little is known about the mechanisms that underlie the acquisition process. Studies of the phonetic units of language have shown that early in life, infants are capable of discerning differences among the phonetic units of all languages, including native- and foreign-language sounds. Between 6 and 12 mo of age, the ability to discriminate foreign-language phonetic units sharply declines. In two studies, we investigate the necessary and sufficient conditions for reversing this decline in foreign-language phonetic perception. In Experiment 1, 9-mo-old American infants were exposed to native Mandarin Chinese speakers in 12 laboratory sessions. A control group also participated in 12 language sessions but heard only English. Subsequent tests of Mandarin speech perception demonstrated that exposure to Mandarin reversed the decline seen in the English control group. In Experiment 2, infants were exposed to the same foreign-language speakers and materials via audiovisual or audio-only recordings. The results demonstrated that exposure to recorded Mandarin, without interpersonal interaction, had no effect. Between 9 and 10 mo of age, infants show phonetic learning from live, but not prerecorded, exposure to a foreign language, suggesting a learning process that does not require long-term listening and is enhanced by social interaction.
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              Gaze following in human infants depends on communicative signals.

              Humans are extremely sensitive to ostensive signals, like eye contact or having their name called, that indicate someone's communicative intention toward them [1-3]. Infants also pay attention to these signals [4-6], but it is unknown whether they appreciate their significance in the initiation of communicative acts. In two experiments, we employed video presentation of an actor turning toward one of two objects and recorded infants' gaze-following behavior [7-13] with eye-tracking techniques [11, 12]. We found that 6-month-old infants followed the adult's gaze (a potential communicative-referential signal) toward an object only when such an act is preceded by ostensive cues such as direct gaze (experiment 1) and infant-directed speech (experiment 2). Such a link between the presence of ostensive signals and gaze following suggests that this behavior serves a functional role in assisting infants to effectively respond to referential communication directed to them. Whereas gaze following in many nonhuman species supports social information gathering [14-18], in humans it initially appears to reflect the expectation of a more active, communicative role from the information source.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Child Dev
                Child development
                1467-8624
                0009-3920
                : 85
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ] University of Washington.
                Article
                NIHMS515593
                10.1111/cdev.12166
                24112079
                © 2013 The Authors. Child Development © 2013 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

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