Cognitive Science
Different styles of mother-infant interaction affect different aspects of infant cognition
Apr 8, 2005 - 4:15:38 AM

Although the quality of mother-child interaction and its effect on general IQ and later schooling is a widely researched topic, it has never been studied using the same infants over a period of time across several cognitive domains.

The research, funded by Pampers of Procter and Gamble, examined some 200 infants who, along with their mothers, visited the labs for one half day when the infants were six months old and for another half-day at ten months old. To ensure a large database, three European labs (London, Paris, Munich), set up identically to the greatest extent possible, tested each of their infants across all the cognitive domains and recorded mother-infant interaction at both ages.

The symposium will begin with a paper presented by Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith from the Institute of Child Health in London, who will set the scene for the remaining three research papers. These will begin with a paper on action perception research, in which Dr Annette Hohenberger, from the Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Munich, will talk about the results from the three labs on infant perception of goal-directed actions and causal events between objects, in relation to mother-infant interaction.

Following this, a third paper will examine the results of the speech processing experiments, in which each infant participated in two syllable discrimination experiments, one in their native language (English, French or German) and one from a different language family, namely Hindi. Ms Mayada Elsabbagh, of the Institute of Child Health in London, will discuss how discrimination of native and non-native language contrasts relate to mother-infant interaction.

The final research paper, presented by Professor de Schonen, of the Centre for National Scientific Research, Paris, will discuss the results of the face processing tasks, which were based on the hypothesis that infants can initially discriminate faces from all ethnic groups but subsequently specialise in the faces of their own ethnic group. Professor de Schonen will examine whether changes in face processing occur at the same time as changes in speech processing or at different times. The symposium will conclude with a discussion from an expert in infant studies, Dr. Gaia Scerif, from the University of Nottingham.

Symposium convenor, Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith from the Institute for Child Health, said: "This very ambitious study involving three European labs, examining several cognitive domains within the same infants longitudinally, is yielding exciting new results about different influences on infant development."

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