Interview: How infants learn to speak

Michael C. Frank, Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, uses SMI Eye Tracking to study “the intersection of language learning and social development”.
Interview: How infants learn to speak
Michael C. Frank, Associate Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

What is the nature of your research?

My work focuses on the intersection of language learning and social development. I begin from the assumption that language is embedded in social context and then use a variety of methods to investigate both the nature of this context and how it facilitates the learning process.

What role does eye tracking play in your work?

At the heart of my work is the idea of creating a computational characterization of children’s basic learning abilities and how these abilities intersect with the social context of learning. But these models need data. I’m especially interested in using eye-tracking (and other related methods, like head-mounted cameras) to get a sense of what children’s visual world is like and how they move their attention around it. The aim of this multi-method approach is to reveal a more detailed, quantitative picture of children’s early language learning.

Give examples of research projects that have benefited from SMI Eye Tracking?

In one project investigating children’s online predictive processing, we showed one to seven year-olds short videos of improvised conversations between puppets. Even one and two-year-old children made accurate and spontaneous predictions about when a turn-switch (change of speaker) would occur. They gazed at the upcoming speaker before they heard a response begin.

In another research project studying negation, children between the ages of two and four watched a video in which they heard positive and negative sentences such as “look at the boy with no apples”. Older children showed significant improvements in the speed and accuracy of their looks to the target.

In both of these projects, we used the SMI RED system, which allowed for fast and accurate recording of children’s point of gaze.

Interview: How infants learn to speak
Michael C. Frank, Associate Professor of Psychology, Stanford University
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