Each spoken language in this world is nuanced and complicated. Yet, when infants are exposed to a language, not only are they able to pick up the words and meanings, but they also start making efforts to communicate verbally. Language learning by infants has long attracted scientists. The question is how infants begin to learn individual words and understand their meanings.
It has been reported that infants’ native and non-native language discrimination begins at approximately 8 months of age. Both the auditory and motor brain areas are deemed necessary for an infant’s perception of speech. A study involving 16-18-month-old infants stated that when objects are placed in predictable locations, they aid in early object name learning. This would indicate that infants pay attention to where an object is usually located for everyday word learning.
The study being reported here was undertaken to understand the influence of an infant’s posture in his/her learning and memory. The question the researchers were trying to address was, in their own words, “how a naïve learner, an infant, might map a name to an object and then later show memory for that mapping.”
Using robotic models and over 60 toddlers about 16 months of age, the researchers have underscored the effect of bodily position on the infants’ brains to connect location to names of objects. Repeated experiments, with or without objects or objects in changed positions, showed that “The robot model—in the service of a physical body that must acquire and demonstrate information in space—proposes label-to-posture and object-to-posture associations, and thereby not only specifies the relevant spatial frame, body posture, but makes it central to learning. The infant results support this position; young learners, who also have bodies in space, exhibit learning patterns like the robot that are tied to the body’s position in space.”
Children suffering from developmental disorders exhibit problems with motor control, attention and learning. The relevance of the study being discussed here gains significance in light of the developmental disorders in children and consequent learning disabilities. The inclusion of the role of body posture in the learning process might serve as an important tool in teaching children with developmental issues.
Written by Mangala Sarkar Ph.D.
Anthony F. Morse, Viridian L. Benitez, Tony Belpaeme, Angelo Cangelosi, Linda B. Smith. Posture Affects How Robots and Infants Map Words to Objects. PLOS ONE, March 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116012
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