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Little babies know common nouns
By Bruce Bower
By age 6 months, infants on the verge
of babbling already know — at least in a
budding sense — the meanings of several
common nouns for foods and body parts,
a new study finds.
Vocabulary learning and advances
in sounding out syllables and consonants go hand in hand starting at
about age 6 months, say graduate student Elika Bergelson and psychologist
Daniel Swingley of the University of
Bergelson and Swingley’s findings
challenge the influential view that word
learning doesn’t start until age 9 months.
Babies blurt out their first words around
1 year of age.
“Our guess is that a special human
desire for social connection, on the part
of parents and their infants, is an impor-
tant component of early word learning,”
Bergelson says. The work is published
online February 13 in the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences.
A 10-month-old plays a word-recognition
game with her mother. Infants recognize
object names long before speaking.
generally did not realize that their 6- to
9-month-olds were familiar with food
and body-part words, babies show signs
of recognizing mommy, daddy and other
frequently heard words by those ages.
That’s not the same as understanding
what those sound patterns mean. Six-to 9-month-olds probably understood
either that certain spoken sounds stood
for specific objects or that particular
utterances regularly accompanied the
appearance of specific objects, says psychologist Richard Aslin of the University
of Rochester in New York.
shot of creativity
Boozy glow may provoke
By Bruce Bower
Getting a buzz from booze may boost
creativity. Men who drank themselves
tipsy solved more problems demanding
verbal resourcefulness in less time than
sober guys did, a new study finds.
Sudden, intuitive insights into tricky
word-association problems occurred
more frequently when men were
intoxicated but not legally drunk, say
psychology graduate student Andrew
Jarosz of the University of Illinois at
Chicago and his colleagues. A moderate
alcoholic high loosens a person’s focus of
attention, making it easier to find connections among remotely related ideas,
the scientists propose online January 28
in Consciousness and Cognition.
In the study, 20 social drinkers watched
an animated movie while eating a snack.
Volunteers then drank enough of a vodka
cranberry drink to reach an average peak
blood alcohol level of 0.075 percent, just
below the current 0.08 percent cutoff for
legal intoxication in the United States.
Another 20 social drinkers watched the
same movie without eating or drinking.
Men in both groups then completed
a creative problem-solving task. For
each of 15 items, volunteers saw three
words — say, peach, arm and tar — and
had to think of a fourth word that forms
a phrase with each of them, such as pit.
On average, participants at peak
intoxication solved about nine prob-
lems correctly, versus approximately
six winners for the sober crowd. It took
an average of 11. 5 seconds for intoxicated
men to generate a correct solution, com-
pared with 15. 2 seconds for sober men.
The groups performed comparably on
the test before the study began.