(used with children aged 4-26 months old)
One of the methods we use is the “Preferential Looking Paradigm”. We observe children’s eye movements while they watch a short movie either on a large TV screen or on a Tobii eye-tracker. The children sit on their parent’s lap. The parent generally listens to music via headphones so that he or she doesn’t influence the child in any way. The movies, in which the child either hears words, sentences or a story generally last no longer than 5 minutes. If a child hears the name of an object that is depicted on the screen, then he or she will automatically look at that object. For example, if the screen shows a dog on the right and a baby on the left and the child hears “Where’s the baby?”, then the child will look at the left side of the screen. In one of our experiments, we investigated whether children would also do this if they heard “Where is the “vaby”? It appears that in this situation children will look at the correct picture (the baby), but it will generally take a little longer and they will look at the picture for less time.
Children also sometimes mispronounce words. For example, a Dutch word like “vis” may often be pronounced “tis”, and “vogel” may be pronounced “pogo”. But a word like “poes” won’t normally be pronounced as “voes”. It appears that how a word is pronounced depends on children’s perception of it: children easily notice the difference between “voes” and “poes”, but less easily the difference between “vogel” and “pogo”.