[personal profile] eub
The "still face" is a psychological experiment where an adult engages with the infant and makes eye contact, but then holds a poker face instead of responding normally. Babies who are of social age (~2 months and up) respond with puzzlement, increased effort to draw attention, agitation, distress, and withdrawal. (I have not tried this on my kids and really don't care to.)

That's for background for another experiment I ran across a description of. In this experiment, you have the parent and baby looking at each other through a video link, some clever setup of half-silvered mirrors. You tape this video of them doing their happy animated thing. Then you switch and start showing the baby taped footage. So here the parent's face hasn't gone neutral, it's still just as animated, but it's not animated in reaction to the baby. And the result here is that the baby can tell. They need the "contingency" -- nifty result! (Murray and Trevarthen, 1985.)

I found in looking it up for this post, though, that this result sadly may not hold up. One study (abstract, full PDF) tried carefully to replicate it, and failed. (The authors suggest a methodological cause: Murray and Trevarthen made the switch from live to tape when "an active interchange was reached", i.e. an above-normal level of engagement, from which you expect to fluctuate back down towards normal even with no intervention at that point.)

As the authors point out, their negative result doesn't show that infants don't sense interpersonal attunement, only that this experimental setup doesn't find it.

Date: 2011-08-22 03:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boonedog.livejournal.com
It's early in the day and I'm not up to actively searching for the article right now, but when EJ was an infant I ran across a study (probably in Scientific American) that infants and toddlers do NOT learn language (in the study's case a second language to the language their caregivers use at home) from watching television. Their study showed that infants and toddlers only learn language that young when it is in real-life interpersonal interaction with another human and when it's on TV it is just visual and audio stimulation but they don't retain knowledge of the language from it.

This of course changes by gradeschool because my daughter has picked up some foreign words from tv. But she picks up phrases and more words by interaction with her friends that speak two languages.

Baby Einstein folks were needless to say none too pleased with this study. There goes their marketing campaign!

Date: 2011-08-23 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eub.livejournal.com
Yeah, I don't know the studies, but I've also heard from Katy that a social context is needed for language acquisition, as well as for retaining the ability to hear phoneme distinctions (where you lose the ones not used in your language).

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