Only exciting things become baby's first words
Babies are more likely to describe things of interest to themselves with the first few words they learn. Scientists led by Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek from Temple University in Philadelphia and colleagues report that it is only later that they learn terms that parents want to actively teach them more quickly.
The researchers tested whether 10-month-old children were more likely to learn the names of things that emanated striking visual and acoustic stimuli, or preferred things that were brought to them by caregivers. As it turned out, the children always assigned the most interesting objects within sight with the words they said. Babies in this age group largely ignored glances, hand signals, and other cues from caregivers to objects that were less colourful, sonorous, or moving.
Parents should heed this connection when talking in the presence of their children, the researchers warn: The baby could describe a conspicuous object without a meaningful connection with a word that has overheard, without paying attention to the speaker's actions. According to Hirsh-Pasek, many parents don't always notice that the children still listen carefully.
Social stimuli and the behavior of teaching reference persons only begin to play an important role in language learning in older children from around 18 months.