When parents speak to their infants in the first year of life, it helps stimulate baby cognition in ways that increase the likelihood of future success.
This is true not only because children learn spoken language faster when their parents speak to them but also because speaking helps to socialize infants, according to researchers at Northwestern University.
Sociologists have documented that economically-disadvantaged parents tend to speak less to their children, slowing the language-learning process. But more is at stake than language learning when it comes to infant-parent communication.
“Listening to speech promotes the babies’ acquisition of the fundamental cognitive and social psychological capacities that form the foundation for subsequent learning,” say the researchers.
Listening to a parent’s speech can help babies identify patterns in the sounds or objects surrounding them, understand with whom they can communicate, and begin building categories of objects and events. Babies that hear their parents speaking in the first year of life are also more successful at listening to other sounds such as tone sequences.
Developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik has spent her career learning truths about the mind and answering the big philosophical questions with help from an unlikely source: babies. In her Big Think interview, she explains how we understand infant minds:
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