Infants found to be more tuned into others who speak their language

October 18, 2016 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of London has found that infants focus more strongly on the people around them who speak the language they are used to hearing. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Katarina Begus, Teodora Gliga and Victoria Southgate describe a study they carried out with infants wired to an EEG machine and what they found.

Research on human development has revealed a lot about the ways that people learn, from before they are born right on up into their later years, but there is still much to learn as the brain is so vastly complicated. In this new effort, the researchers sought to address the development of preferences in babies—in this case, 11-month-old babies and their preferences regarding listening to someone speak to them.

Prior research has shown that emit a certain type of brain wave when they are open to learning something new—this theta activity can be captured by taping probes to the scalp and monitoring using EEG equipment. Prior research has also shown that babies are very interested in learning new things and thus grow bored or turn away from people or things that do not appear to represent a learning opportunity. With that in mind, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 45 babies (and their parents of course), each just 11 months old, to participate in some experiments. All of the babies had been raised in homes where only English was ever spoken.

The study began by setting a baseline for the infants. Each was put into an obvious learning situation while their brain waves were monitored. After doing so, the researchers we able to see that the babies all emitted the same sort of theta activity as the adults, setting the stage for the second part of the experiment. Each of the babies was coaxed into watching videos of people demonstrating how to use an object the baby had never seen before—but they introduced a twist. Sometimes, the person in the video was speaking English and sometimes they were not. The researchers found that the tended to show theta activity for English speakers but not when the person spoke in a different language.

The researchers suggest their results indicate that the were recognizing that they were not going to learn something from the non-English speakers, and thus saw no reason to be receptive.

Explore further: Baby food for thought

Related Stories

Baby food for thought

August 12, 2016
If you want your baby to love broccoli, you better love it, too, because that tiny human is watching you to learn which foods are good and bad. That's one of the takeaways in a new paper by a UC Santa Barbara researcher who ...

Infants use prefrontal cortex in learning

October 5, 2016
Researchers have long thought that the region of the brain involved in some of the highest forms of cognition and reasoning – the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – was too underdeveloped in young children, especially infants, ...

Simply listening prompts speech practice before an infant's first words

July 9, 2015
Infants take in the sounds of various languages indiscriminately until about 8 months of age, when their brains start to focus only on the predominant language they hear around them, according to researchers. But, they say, ...

Babies' brains show that social skills linked to second language learning

July 27, 2015
Babies learn language best by interacting with people rather than passively through a video or audio recording. But it's been unclear what aspects of social interactions make them so important for learning.

Bilingual baby brains show increased activity in executive function regions

April 4, 2016
Many brain studies show that bilingual adults have more activity in areas associated with executive function, a set of mental abilities that includes problem-solving, shifting attention and other desirable cognitive traits.

Recommended for you

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.