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 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.