Human speech has a surprising influence on young infants, suggests a new theory. The study suggests that listening to speech promotes the babies' cognitive, social and psychological capacities.
Waxman, the Louis W. Menk Chair in Psychology, a professor of cognitive psychology and a fellow in the University's Institute for Policy Research, said that it is not because children have low vocabularies that they fail to achieve later on. The vocabulary of a child raised in poverty or in plenty is really an index of the larger context in which language participates.
New York University's Athena Vouloumanos advocates speaking to infants, not only because it will teach them more words but because listening to speech promotes the babies' acquisition of the fundamental cognitive and social psychological capacities that form the foundation for subsequent learning.
Waxman said that these new results, culled from several different labs including their own, informed that infants as young as 2 or 3 months of age not only love to listen to speech, but that they learn about fundamental cognitive and social relations better in the context of listening to speech than in any other context we've discovered yet.
Waxman concluded that this early tuned sensitivity to human language has positive, cascading developmental consequences that go way beyond learning language.
The study is published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.