What do very
young infants understand about the world around them? Are infants able to
tell the difference between speech and other sounds? If infants are exposed
to multiple languages, when are they able to tell them apart? What aspects
of speech are particularly interesting to infants? How do infants'
vocalizations reflect their language experience? Or, to take an example
from the conceptual domain, how do infants make sense of events they see?
Understanding the course of normal language and cognitive development in
infancy may inform our decisions about early childhood interventions in
cases of development outside the norm.
information, please contact: Grace Zhou Research Coordinator
2001 McGill College Avenue
Montreal, QC, H3A 1G1
Call us at: (514) 398-3144
(or (514) 398-7428 for French)
The McGill Infant Development Centre
(Kristine Onishi) explores language and
cognitive development in young infants from newborns through
24-month-old infants. For example, we’re interested in finding out
whether infants are born knowing that speech is special. By giving
infants the opportunity to listen to speech and to non-speech sounds
(for example, music), we can find out which aspects of speech are most
interesting to infants. We're also interested in finding out what
infants understand about events and people. Does a young infant pay
attention to the difference between a cup on a block and block on a
cup? Or to whether big sister prefers to play with the cup or the
block? By showing infants different types of events, we can learn about
what they notice about them.
The Infant Speech Perception Lab
(Linda Polka) explores the development of speech perception during infancy. The goal of this work is to understand the initial abilities and biases that the infants bring to this task and how their speech processing changes with as they begin to understand and to produce spoken language. My lab is engaged in two overlapping lines of research; one focuses on the development of vowel perception and production during infancy and the other explores how language experience shapes infant perception of phonetic segments and processing of fluent connected speech in monolingual and bilingual infants. In current work we are also investigating the role of talker variability in adult and infant perception, including studies that explore how infants perceive speech produced by an infant talker.
The Communication Development and Disorders Lab
(PoP Lab, Director: AparnaNadig) observes how infants and children
learn language and about the world around them. We are currently
conducting two studies. In one study we
investigate how typically-developing infants aged 14 months learn about
how objects work. Do they learn through social cues, such as a smile on
the face of a person using the object, or rather through seeing how the
object works multiple times? Questions like this are researched by
showing short movies and measuring the amount of time the infants look
at the movie, which is taken to reflect learning of the object's
function. Our second study aims to better understand the social
and perceptual strategies used to learn early words by both typically-developing infants aged 18 to 30 months
and by preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders. We are
particularly interested in individual differences in vocabulary growth
over time, and how this might be related to the ways children learn and
generalize words. In the future, knowledge gained from this study may
be used to help children with autism communicate better.
The Talwar Child Development Team
(Victoria Talwar) investigates children’s cognitive social development. Our research is informed by the disciplines of psychology, education and law to examine children’s behaviours that are pertinent to children’s adaptive development, child witness testimony and professionals who work with children. We conduct studies examining how children learn and develop different social behaviors such as honesty, politeness, regulation of their own emotions and understanding other’s feelings and beliefs. We look at child & youth social behaviour both in face-to-face interactions and also on-line. Studies include research on the developmental trajectories of children’s honesty and related behaviours and risk factors (e.g. their moral development, empathy, impulse control, parenting styles), children’s perceptions and evaluations of bullying behaviour (both traditional and cyber-bullying), youth and parents perceptions on on-line engagement and safety, and methods of promoting children’s accurate and truthful testimony.
Our research is funded by the
Natural Science and Engineering Council (NSERC) of Canada, the Fondsquébécois de la recherchesur la société et la culture (FQRSC), the Social Sciences
and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, the Canadian
Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRN), the Canada Foundation
for Innovation (CFI), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). All
our projects receive approval from the McGill Research Ethics Board for
Research on Human Subjects.