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How curiosity boosts language learning in childhood

Resource Details

  • Written by

    Estefania Dominguez

  • Read time

    2 min

From the earliest stages of our development, curiosity keeps us growing and learning. Curiosity is an especially important part of the language acquisition process. Curiosity-driven or active language learning is naturally rewarding and helps humans retain key information for the long term.

To further explore how language acquisition relates to emotional state, Dr. Vivien Outters, with her colleagues in Göttingen and Oxford University, conducted a word-learning recognition experiment with 3-year-old children.

Children performed a task in which they learned six novel objects and the words associated to them. In each trial, a pair of novel objects was shown on the screen and the word of one of them was played.

The researchers used Tobii eye tracking technology to measure both eye movements and pupil dilation. Eye movements were used as an index of word learning success by measuring the time that a child looked at the object associated with the word being played. Pupil dilation was used as a measure of task engagement, with the hypothesis that rewarding stimulus creates greater pupillary arousal. Researchers also measured children’s upper body posture after each test, as literature suggests that an elevated upper body posture is related to a positive emotional state.

The study results revealed that children who were more engaged or stimulated in the novel word training task were better at recognizing newly learned words. On the other side, there were no conclusive results on the relation between individual learning success and positive emotions.

More research is needed to further distinguish how the emotional state relates to word learning, but no doubt this study highlights the important role of children’s motivation and engagement in language learning ability.

Cited publication

Outters, V., Hepach, R., Behne, T. et al. (2023). Children’s affective involvement in early word learning. Sci Rep 13, 7351. May 2023.  

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Resource Details

  • Written by

    Estefania Dominguez

  • Read time

    2 min

    Resource type

    • Research and reports

    Tagged products

    • Eye trackers

    Tagged solutions

    • Scientific research


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