Baby Brain on Language – TED Talk by Patricia Kuhl

15 02 2011

At TEDxRainier, Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies implicitly learn one language over another and explains what makes them the tiny linguistic geniuses they are. Babies learn by interacting with the humans around them and implicitly “taking statistics” on the sounds they need to know. And the younger they are, the more susceptible their brains are to being shaped by this information. Clever lab experiments (and brain scans) show how 6-month-old babies use sophisticated reasoning to understand their world.

Patricia Kuhl is co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington. She’s internationally recognized for her research on early language and brain development, and studies that show how young children learn. Kuhl’s work has played a major role in demonstrating how early exposure to language alters the brain. It has implications for critical periods in development, for bilingual education and reading readiness, for developmental disabilities involving language, and for research on computer understanding of speech (source).

What I think Patricia Kuhl’s results might point to is not solely limited to the aquisition of language. In my view, nonverbal behavior patterns (as another important channel of communication that carry a culture’s signature) are most likely “sampled” the same way. I might even go as far as stating that culture, as abstract and multifacetted as this concept might be, is probably acquired similarly. An explanation is given by Koerner (2003), who sees an interdependent relationship between culture and interpersonal relationships:

“It is primarily in interpersonal relationships where a culture’s values and beliefs are enacted, reinforced, and sanctioned. (…) The relationship between interpersonal relationships and culture, however, is not a causal relationship. Rather, it is one of mutual dependence. Culture and interpersonal relationships are intertwined such that while culture is instantiated in interpersonal relationships, interpersonal communication is also always taking place in the context of culture and is incomprehensible without it.”

Therefore, the presented data are a great example of how brains and behavior can be shaped by implicit processes initiated by social experience that takes place in the context of culture.

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26 04 2012
Baby Brain on Language « Language and Personality

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