EVANSTON, Ill. --- America’s preoccupation with the “word gap”— the idea that parents in impoverished homes speak less to their children, which, in turn, predicts outcomes like school achievement and income later in life — has skyrocketed in recent years, leading to a rise in educational initiatives aiming to narrow the achievement gap by teaching young children more words.
In a forthcoming article titled “Listen Up! Speech Is for Thinking During Infancy,” to be published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Northwestern University psychologist Sandra Waxman and New York University’s Athena Vouloumanos broaden the scope of this issue by assessing the impact of human speech on infant cognition in the first year of life.
“It’s not because [children] have low vocabularies that they fail to achieve later on. That’s far too simple,” said Waxman, the Louis W. Menk Chair in Psychology, a professor of cognitive psychology and a fellow in the University’s Institute for Policy Research. “The vocabulary of a child — raised in poverty or in plenty — is really an index of the larger context in which language participates.”
Consequently, Vouloumanos advocates speaking to infants, not only “because it will teach them more words,” she said, but because “listening to speech promotes the babies’ acquisition of the fundamental cognitive and social psychological capacities that form the foundation for subsequent learning.”
Summary from Learning & the Brain Society Newsletter - January 2015
Human speech has consequences for infants that go beyond learning words
An article published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Northwestern University psychologist Sandra Waxman and New York University's Athena Vouloumanos reveal from a series of new findings the surprising impact of human speech on infant cognition in the first year; listening to speech promotes much more than language-learning alone. Vouloumanos emphasizes speaking to infants, not only "because it will teach them more words," she said, but because "listening to speech promotes the babies' acquisition of the fundamental cognitive and social psychological capacities that form the foundation for subsequent learning."
Via iPamba, Jocelyn Stoller