How do infants learn how to behave? An unusual new study shows that babies are more likely to imitate an adult’s actions when specific language is attached.
In the study, an audience of 14-month-old babies watched a Northwestern University researcher use her forehead to turn on a light switch. When she announced and named her intention to the infants by saying “I’m going to blick the light,” the babies were more likely to follow her example than when she simply performed the action without speech. The results suggest that when hearing words, the infants were more likely to see her action as intentional instead of a fluke.
As one co-author of the study put it, “This means that human language provides infants with a powerful key: it unlocks for them a broader world of social intentions.”