LingLang Lunch (2/26/2020): Casey Lew-Williams (Princeton)

Casey Lew-Williams is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and director of Baby Lab at Princeton University. He and his lab study domain-general learning mechanisms and specific features of learning environments in order to understand the beginnings of human cognition and their consequences on children’s outcomes. For more information, his website is here.

Infants learn from meaningful structure in their communicative environments

During natural communication, caregivers pitch statistics at infants, and infants figure out what to pay attention to across milliseconds and months. In doing so, they make progress in detecting and then running with meaningful, naturally variable structure in their environments. I will present a few recent studies examining how caregivers package language to infants, how infants process patterns in the complexities of their input, and how infant-adult dyads align their brains and behaviors during natural play. I will also present preliminary analyses suggesting that such alignment is relevant to children’s learning of new information. The data collectively suggest that fine-grained, predictable statistics embedded in everyday communication are key to understanding the dynamic and consequential nature of early learning.