Does Infants' Socially-guided Attention Uniquely Predict Language Development?


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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to examine whether infants' social attention, as well as their joint attention behaviors uniquely predicted emerging language abilities. This longitudinal study examined attention regulation skills, joint attention behaviors, infants' expressive/receptive language (current), emerging communication abilities at 16- and 17-month-old (time 1); expressive/receptive language (subsequent) at 18- 19-month-old (time 2). Infants' sustained attention was measured by their attention control to a central stimulus in the presence of a distracter competing for their attention. Dynamic human face (upright, inverted) and abstract display with their matched voice tracks were used to separately measure infants' attention regulation to different types of events. Infants' sustained attention was estimated by their latencies away from central stimuli to distracters, as well as their fixation duration and gaze count on central events and distracters. It was found that infants' latency away from the abstract figure toward the distracter was the only variable that significantly negatively predicted current expressive vocabulary.

Initiating joint attention was observed to significantly predict infants' abilities in current receptive vocabulary. The emerging language communication ability predicted expressive vocabulary at two times. In addition, infants' fixation and count to the upright speaker's face and eyes contributed significant amount of variance in initiating joint attestation. The fixation and gaze count on the distracter in the upright condition significantly predicted infants' emerging language skills.



Attention, social attention, language, distractibility