Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagInfants

Mother spending time talking to her baby at home
Side view of a woman playing with her infant child. Smiling woman talking to her baby sitting on a couch.

Babies Can Understand Whole Sentences Before They Can Speak

Before uttering their first word, a new study suggests, children can understand what groups of words mean together

In a recent study of 11–12 month olds published in Cognition, researchers found that infants on the verge of saying single words themselves can already process complete sentences such as “Clap your hands.” The research sheds light on the difficulties adults have learning second languages if they focus too intensely on single words: Dr Barbora Skarabela, of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Languages Sciences, said: “Previous research has shown that young infants recognise many common words. But this is the first study that shows that infants extract and store more than just single words from everyday speech. This suggests that when children learn language, they build on linguistic units of varying sizes, including multiword sequences, and not just single…

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Father and child reading story book

Researchers: Human Brains Are Prewired To Recognize Words

Contrary to what psychologists had supposed, the ability to seek meaning is built in, not taught

Zeynep Saygin at Ohio State and her colleagues challenged a long-standing belief that human brains are not pre-adapted to learn language: Humans are born with a part of the brain that is prewired to be receptive to seeing words and letters, setting the stage at birth for people to learn how to read, a new study suggests. Analyzing brain scans of newborns, researchers found that this part of the brain – called the “visual word form area” (VWFA) – is connected to the language network of the brain. “That makes it fertile ground to develop a sensitivity to visual words – even before any exposure to language,” said Zeynep Saygin, senior author of the study and assistant professor of psychology…

Babys playing together.

Are Infants Born Kind? New Research Says Yes

The trouble is, the research is haunted by conflicting definitions of altruism

If human infants show apparent intellectual qualities like compassion earlier than we might have expected but chimpanzees don’t, we must accept that humans are fundamentally different from chimpanzees. Conflicting definitions of altruism cloud the picture.

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child girl playing with counter toy at nursery

Babies Have a Number Sense Before They Can Count

The study showed that counting with babies makes a difference, even though their understanding is not very exact

The question was not whether the infants understood the exact numbers (they didn’t) but whether they understood that the researchers were, in fact, counting things.

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