The Child Cognition Lab

University of Arizona | Tucson, AZ

Infant and Child Studies
Categorization of Objects: 4.5-Month-Olds
Rebecca Gomez, lab manager Sara Frye, and recent UA graduate Rachel Yourison are investigating how 4.5-month-olds learn about objects in their environment. Young infants receive thousands of new pieces of information everyday as they learn about the world. In order to make use of this new information, they must find ways to condense it by forming it into categories. For example, an infant might form a category of dogs as being four-legged animals that have fur. This study explores whether infants can form a category in a short period of time and then generalize from this new category. We are also investigating how sleep plays a role in this process.
Discriminating Images from their Background: 5.5-month-olds
The visual world contains an overwhelming amount of information; it’s filled with a wealth of different colors, textures, patterns, etc. Infants are faced with the challenge of determining what goes together to make up an object and what is simply part of the background. Graduate student Elizabeth Salvagio Campbell, the designer of this study, is investigating how infants learn to see objects, and what sort of information in their world can they use. It’s known that infants are sensitive to regularly occurring information present in the environment. This study tests infant’s ability to learn a new object based on seeing it in a number of different contexts, where the only regularly occurring information is the shape of the object.
Pulling Out Patterns from Language Sequences: 6.5-month-olds
From a very young age, infants track statistical frequencies in various kinds of information including musical, linguistic, and visual stimuli. In this study, graduate student Katharine Newman-Smith tests young infants’ ability to track statistical probabilities in language sequences. Infants will listen to a series of language sequences with an embedded pattern while monitoring their attention. After establishing the level of difficulty for learning for different ages, we will introduce sleep manipulations. The sleep manipulations determine whether younger infants show evidence of more complex learning with the facilitation of sleep.
Learning Through Noise: 12-Month-Olds
The language environment for many children is a complex intersection of dialects, languages, and proficiency levels. One potential challenge of such linguistic diversity is the confluence of incompatible language input. For example, whereas a proficient English speaker will consistently label a male “he” and female “she”, a nonproficient English speaker might use both words to label both genders. Notice that computing statistics across these speakers potentially obscures the regularities of the proficient speaker. In order to detect these regularities, then, children may need to computationally segregate speakers—in other words, put the speakers’ statistical information in separate “files”. In this project, designed by Kalim Gonzales, we are investigating what types of cues (e.g., speaker voice) facilitate such segregation.
How Children Learn and Apply Nouns: 15 month-olds , 2.5-year-olds (30-35 months) & 3-4-year-olds (36-47 months)
This study examines how children learn new nouns and extend that noun to new examples of it. When children learn new nouns, they often have to learn these when the context is constantly changing. For example, a child may have to learn that the word ‘dog’ refers to their pet Chihuahua at home, a poodle in the park, as well as a Labrador at their friend’s house: these are three different examples of a dog learned in three different contexts. So, in this study we are looking at how children learn nouns.
Categorizing Nouns and Verbs: 13-, 15-, and 18-month-olds
beach ball
In the 13-, 15-, and 18-month-old study, graduate student Michelle Sandoval examines how infants form categories of words and how they generalize these categories using “frequent frames.” Frequent frames are words, such as you and it, that frame a category of words such as verbs. For example, when you and it are used in the same sentence, the word in between is almost always a verb (e.g., you broke it, you ate it, you did it). So if the infant heard the word you and it with a new word in between, the infant would categorize this new word as a verb as well (e.g., you bliffed it). This study takes this phenomenon and applies it to an artificial language to determine whether infants can in fact use this information to form categories from speech.
Naps Promote Generalization: 18-Month-Olds
baby sleeping
Lab director Dr. Rebecca Gómez designed the 18-month-old study. This study asks whether the pattern that infants extract is general enough to be transferred to another type of information (i.e. to new words or to visual information). In this study, infants first listen to made-up sentences in which the first word predicts the third. Then infants see both of these patterns instantiated in new words or in visual shapes. The sleep component of this study will investigate how sleep creates more general forms of knowledge.
Verb Learning: A Need for Sleep and Variability: 3-year-olds (36-42 months)
Graduate student Michelle Sandoval is investigating how sleep affects children's learning of the meanings of words. Specifically, this study asks how having very few or several different examples during learning affects immediate and long-term retention of a verb. In addition, the study examines how individual differences in children's napping patterns affect this learning.
Language Development in Preschoolers: 4-year-olds (54-59 months)
The 4-year-old study examines the differences in language development and word learning in monolingual and multilingual preschoolers. The study involves children watching short videos that teach them new words for new objects. We then ask children to identify the objects by pointing to see what they have learned. This study takes about 60 minutes to complete and children are able to pick out a toy at the end of the visit.