Cognitive scientists ID new mechanism at heart of early childhood learning and social behavior

Posted on November 14, 2013
IU cognitive scientists ID new mechanism at heart of early childhood learning and social behavior

Wearing head-mounted eye-tracking technology, a child and his mother engage in free play. Credit: Indiana University
Shifting the emphasis from gaze to hand, a study by Indiana University cognitive scientists provides compelling evidence for a new and possibly dominant way for social partners—in this case, 1-year-olds and their parents—to coordinate the process of joint attention, a key component of parent-child communication and early language learning.

Previous research involving joint visual attention between parents and toddlers has focused exclusively on the ability of each partner to follow the gaze of the other. In “Joint Attention Without Gaze Following: Human Infants and Their Parents Coordinate Visual Attention to Objects Through Eye-Hand Coordination,” published in the online journal PLOS ONE, the researchers demonstrate how hand-eye coordination is much more common, and the parent and toddler interact as equals, rather than one or the other taking the lead.

The findings open up new questions about language learning and the teaching of language. They could also have major implications for the treatment of children with early social-communication impairment, such as autism, where joint caregiver-child attention with respect to objects and events is a key issue.

Read more at: MedicalXpress