Thursday, March 23, 2006

Junk Science?

Current mood: skeptical

Category: News and Politics

How Babies Learn Their First Words

RobertRoy Britt

LiveScience Managing Editor
Live Wed Mar 22, 10:00 AM ET

Like teenagers, babies don't much care what their parents say.

Though they are learning words at 10 months old, infants tend to grasp the names of objects that interest them rather than whatever the speaker thinks is important, a new study finds.

And they do it quickly.

The infants were able to learn two new words in five minutes with just five presentations for each word and object, said study leader Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University. Importantly, the babies paired a new word to the object they liked best, regardless of what object the speaker referred to.

"The baby naturally assumes that the word you're speaking goes with the object that they think is interesting, not the object that you show an interest in," Hirsh-Pasek said.

The result is not too surprising, Hirsh-Pasek said in a telephone interview. She says interest drives learning for older children, too, and even adults.

She cites six-year-olds she's heard talking knowledgably about baseball players' batting averages. "How in the world do they get it? They're not going to do decimals until 7th or 8th grade."


Hmmmm.....let's see. Is it possible these six-year olds are not actually computing the averages, Ms. Hirsh-Pasek? Perhaps they are simply repeating them. Her inane comment makes me doubt the accuracy and usefulness of this "study".

The day she turned five months old, my daughter pulled herself up to a standing position in her crib and said "mama" several times before crashing into the headboard. She could get up, but didn't know how to sit back down.

That's about as developmentally typical as six-year olds doing fractions and decimals without having been taught how to do them.