Thursday, March 25, 2010

Parents who want smarter babies should use words, not babyspeak

Talking has a bigger impact on their developing minds than other sounds, even musical ones, according to a new study.

Infants as young as 3 months old who were exposed to words, not baby talk, were more capable of "categorizing" pictures than babies who just listened to tones.

"For infants as young as three months of age, words exert a special influence that supports the ability to form a category," said Susan Hespos, associate professor at Northwestern University, according to the Daily Mail. "These findings offer the earliest evidence to date for a link between words and object categories."

The research, published in the journal Child Development, focused on 50 3-month-olds who looked at a series of pictures of fish. Either words or beeps were played as the babies looked at the photos. Next, they were shown photos of a fish and of a dinosaur, side by side, as researchers checked to see how long they looked at each photo. Apparently, when the babies looked at the fish longer than the dinosaur, this meant they had already categorized the fish in their minds.

The results, according to the researchers, were "striking." The babies in the "word" group kept their eyes on the fish for a longer period of time.

Sandra Waxman, a co-author of the study, said, "We suspect that human speech, and perhaps especially infant directed speech, engenders in young infants a kind of attention to the surrounding objects that promotes categorization."

Babies as young as three months old can even benefit from having stories read to them, says Dr. Albert Levy, assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "I don’t encourage parents to talk baby talk to their baby all the time because when you do, the baby learns to speak that way. Use the words you want them to learn."

Just a year ago, Hespos was involved in a study that demonstrated that babies are brainier than was previously thought, according to The Sun. The research found that babies as young as 5 months old learn by themselves, rather than by being taught. In that study, researchers showed the infants a tilted glass filled with blue liquid, and then a glass containing a blue solid that had been angled to look like the first glass. The babies looked at the solid longer than at the liquid, which meant they could tell the difference between the two.

"Babies are collecting data all the time," Hespos said.

Source