In their first six months, babies start babbling, and then speak their first words by their first year. Their minds develop at such a rapid pace so they can learn and interact with their world. How babies learn and develop their speaking ability is called language comprehension. The process isn’t comparable to how adults try to learn a new language, the process hardly needs the duolingo owl to (scarily) remind you that you need to answer new exercises. Psycholinguist Evann Kidd explores this elusive process, and shares his insights with Knowable Magazine:
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How do you know that infants can recognize words if they’re too young to speak?
We put electrodes on their head to record electrical activity from the scalp. And then we just play them sentences. These are really simple sentences, such as, “The eagle is in the nest.” And 300 milliseconds later, we play “eagle.” And then we compare the response from the electrodes to “eagle” to the response to another word that they haven’t heard. If we get a deviation in the brain activity in response to the new word compared to the replayed word, we infer that they recognize the replayed word.
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