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- College of Human Ecology: Human Development
In my research, my students and I examine various aspects of cognitive development and language learning in infants and young children. I am particularly interested in the interaction between cognition and language from infancy into early childhood. Much of my work has focused on the early development of spatial skills, the acquisition of spatial language, and links and causal relations across these two domains. Other work has examined how infants and children acquire a second language and this acquisition may shape underlying concepts.
In addition, our lab seeks to develop new methodological approaches that can be used to trace the trajectory of spatial and cognitive skills from infancy into early childhood. We combine across naturalistic and experimental methods to understand how acquiring spatial language may relate to the development of spatial skills and to test causal links between particular experiences, such as exposure to spatial language or engaging in particular play activities, and adavnces in infants' and children's spatial skills. Our goal is to not only understand how early spatial skills develop, but also how best to promote their development.
In other work, my students and I have begun to explore how infants and toddlers learn labels in a foreign language, examining how much exposure to an unfamiliar language (such as Spanish) is necessary for infants to begin to demonstrate comprehension of words in the new language. We have also explored this question with school-aged children who are learning a new language (Spanish) during a weekly enrichment program.