UC Merced Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society Title Learning (to Learn) from Spatial Attention Cues During Infancy Publication Date

Rachel Wu, Natasha Kirkham, Rachel Wu, Natasha Kirkham
2012 Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society   unpublished
Human infants develop a variety of attentional mechanisms that allow them to extract relevant information from a cluttered world. We know that both social and non-social cues shift infants' attention, but not how infants use these cues to learn basic events. With over 450 infants, four extensive eye-tracking studies in this thesis established a controlled paradigm for investigating how attention cues shape early learning. The results showed that infants' ability to learn about structures in
more » ... t structures in their environment (i.e., predicting the appearance of audiovisual events and forming expectations about co-occurring features) is dependent on the presence and nature of attention cues. By 8 months, infants learned these events significantly better with social cues (e.g., eye gaze, infant-directed speech, expression of interest) than with non-social cues (e.g., flashing squares) or without any attentional cueing. Importantly, when presented with multiple events to learn and cued by a face to one specific event, infants learned the cued event and ignored the non-cued event. The last study found that familiar communicative social signals (i.e., an engaging face that spoke to the infant) boosted 9-month-olds' learning about cued events. In particular, the engaging face supported learning from non-social cues, providing evidence for a mechanism explaining how infants learn to learn from unfamiliar attention cues such as pointing or arrows. Our results showed that though social cues may temporarily detract attention away from certain learning events in the world, they appear to stimulate infants to display better learning about the cued event than when infants learn with other attention cues or on their own without attention cues.