Carnegie Mellon University

Erik Thiessen

August 12, 2019

Language and Learning Lab Helps Develop Researchers

By Heidi Opdyke

In Erik Thiessen’s Infant Language and Learning Lab, Carnegie Mellon University students are taking their first steps into research. The studies are simple and fun for the subjects.

While babies sit on parents’ laps, they watch a computer display and listen to words or tones. But for the researcher, the work is more intense as they watch the infants’ eye movements and code the findings.

“Undergraduates do the vast majority of the work in the lab,” said Thiessen, a professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Working with babies takes extensive training. You have to learn about infant eye movement to figure out what it is they are paying attention to and track it painstakingly in real time.”

The lab explores learning in infancy and childhood and how infants acquire the tremendous amount of information necessary to understand language. Studies range from learning how babies can learn the words of two languages simultaneously as they grow up to seeing how quickly children can control their attention without being distracted.

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