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Our Methods

How we work with our little scientists

Eye-tracking measures
​Eye-tracking allows us to look at what words and sentences your child understands at different ages. This technique uses the fact that children tend to look at pictures that match the words and sentences they hear. 

Typically, your child will sit in a car seat in front of a special screen and will listen to sentences (e.g. look at the doggie!) while looking at pictures or short images or video clips). Our eye-tracker allows us to monitor where your child looks as the sentence unfolds; it's a great way of telling us whether your child understands the words and sentences they are hearing, as well as how quickly they process these words, even before they are speaking in complete sentences.

​Not only this, but eye-tracking can be used to assess young children, which means that we can find out about the very earliest stages of the language learning process. 

​As you can see, children do not need ​to wear anything obtrusive for us to track their ​eye movements; we simply pop a small target sticker on their forehead - which most children are completely unaware ​of!

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Using this method means that we can test younger children AND those who are a little older!

We may also use Standardised Measures
These are widely-used measures of children’s development produced 
by publishing companies such as Pearson Assessment. These measures typically take between 20 and 45 minutes to complete and tend to be suitable for older children. The ones you might see us use are:

BPVS: This is a test of receptive vocabulary that can be used for children from the age of 2 years old. In this assessment, children are simply required to point to one of four pictures in response to a verbal prompt such as, "Can you put your finger on cup?" 
 

CELF-Preschool 2 UK: This is a general language measure for children aged 3 years old and above. The CELF consists of some games (e.g., pointing at pictures, labelling objects) that your child will take part in with one of our researchers.
 

TROG-2: This a test of grammar for children aged 4 years old and above. Just like the CELF, the TROG-2 requires your child to take part in some pointing games with one of our researchers.
 

Behavioural measures

Our research isn't limited just to using specialist equipment like eye-trackers; we also use a number of other methods to investigate children's language development. See below:

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EEG

Our research has been back in full swing this summer - especially now that we have our new EEG experiment to give us more exciting insights on how your babies learn language!


EEG is an easy and safe technique used to detect and measure electrical brain activity. It is used widely with both adults and children, but our research is focusing on whether prediction, the ability to guess what's coming next, plays a role in your child's language learning process. The EEG cap is soaked in a warm solution and then popped on your baby's head whilst they watch some familiar faces like Pingu and Mickey Mouse!

 

Whilst watching these videos your child will listen to made-up words and complex sounds, with the EEG system recording how they respond to these. This data will help our researchers see how your child reacts to different stimuli — whether this be learned words or brand
new ones.

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Sometimes, we might ask you to come in to take part in a session 
where you and child will read stories together.

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In some of our tasks, your child will play a fun game with one of our researchers.

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Other times, we might be interested in filming you and child in a free-
​play session with different toys. This is called naturalistic play, which helps us to get a good idea of how children naturally use language in their everyday situations.

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Sometimes, we ask children to point to one of a pair of images to learn ​more about the types of sentence structures that they ​understand.

The interactions between caregiver and infant that are described above give us a lot of information about how children naturally take in language and what they do with it in response. Whether it's reading, or play, or simple games, we can learn how our little scientists' use of language are affected by someone else, and even vice-versa!

​Questionnaires
Often, we will ask you to fill in questionnaires about your child's language development. These questionnaires take between 5 and 20 minutes to complete. The questionnaires we use are:
·         The UK-CDI: a checklist of common words and gestures used by children aged 8-18 months
·         The Lincoln-CDI: a checklist of common words and gestures used by children 16-30 months.
·         The Family Questionnaire: questionnaire about your child’s health and family background.

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