Keynote Speakers


Embodied Cognition for Kids 

Arthur Glenberg
Departments of Psychology, Arizona State University and University of Winsconsin-Madison

Language comprehension is an embodied simulation process: Language drives neural and bodily systems of action, perception, and emotion into states homologous to those experienced when in the situation described by the language. But when children learn to read, particularly in an orthographically opaque language such as English, they must concentrate on simply pronouncing the words.  In this case, embodied simulation may be absent, comprehension is poor, and reading is a boring exercise in word calling. Moved by Reading is a two-part intervention for teaching children how to simulate while reading. First, children manipulate objects or pictures to externally simulate the content of the sentences they are reading. Second, children are taught to imagine moving the objects as a scaffold to independent reading. Our latest instantiation of the intervention is called EMBRACE (Enhanced Moved By Reading to Accelerate Comprehension). This iPad application is designed to help English Language Learners develop comprehension skill when reading in English. I will present data demonstrating the effectiveness of Moved by Reading and EMBRACE. I will also briefly discuss the relation between embodied cognition and STEM learning.



The co-evolution of embodied and situated language and cognition: gesture, demonstratives, and other "living fossils"

Rafael Nuñez
Cognitive Science Department, University of California San Diego

The study of the evolution of language has usually focused on the biological pre-conditions that might have led to the emergence of speech and/or grammar. This approach, however, is unnecessarily narrow. Among others, it leaves out the fundamental role of situated bodily actions which, unfolding in real-time, are immersed in meaningful physical and social worlds. Building on research in primatology, developmental psychology, linguistics, and cross-cultural psychology, I’ll argue that the study of contemporary “living fossils” such as the gestures co-produced with demonstratives (in concrete and abstract contexts), can bring important insights into the complexities of the co-evolution of body, language, and cognition.



Rhythm, resonance and language acquisition

Marcela Peña
School of Psychology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Speech and human brain are rhythmic by nature. Do these rhythmic activities shape each other during language acquisition? We present a series of studies showing that adult and infant brain resonates to the rhythm of syllables and words during speech processing. Moreover, we present studies showing that resonance also involves other rhythmic communicative behaviours such as turn taking between mothers and infants.

Taken together the data suggest that brain activity can synchronize with external stimulation during learning, that the synchrony between the brain and the external rhythmic stimulation may reflect an efficient mechanism for language and communicative learning in young infants, and that brain synchrony may be a new tool to estimate on-going learning.



Beyond lexical bean counting: mapping lexico-semantic structure in early vocabulary can highlight processes in language learning and processing

Arielle Borovsky
Department of Psychology, Florida State University

Measures of early vocabulary growth often focus on the number of words children know and say, and this enterprise has yielded many insights into the development of early language skills.   But early word growth is not random – children tend to learn words that have connections with their existing vocabulary and ongoing language experience.   This insight suggests that mapping the structure of meaning in the early lexicon may illustrate important processes in language learning and processing. 

In this talk, I will describe a series of projects that explores whether and how the development of lexico-semantic structure in early childhood can lend insights into language processing and word learning.   I will first describe several studies that track real-time lexical recognition of known and novel words as a function of semantic density in the lexicon.   I will then outline a project to develop detailed feature norms for many early-acquired concepts that will facilitate the development of graph-theoretic metrics of early vocabulary structure and discuss potential implications for the development of vocabulary interventions and models of early language acquisition.



Nurturing a lexical legacy: language experience and learning to read words

Kate Nation
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

The scientific study of reading has taught us much about the beginnings of reading in childhood, with a rich literature informing both theory and educational practice.  Similarly, there is a large evidence base charting the cognitive processes that characterise skilled word recognition in adults. Less understood is how children develop orthographic expertise. What factors are critical for children to move from novice to expert?  This talk will outline the critical role of experience in this transition. Encountering individual words in text provides opportunities for children to refine their knowledge about how spelling codes spoken language. Alongside this however, reading experience provides much more than repeated exposure to individual words in isolation. Words are experienced in meaningful language environments that capture events in the world. According to the lexical legacy perspective, outlined in this talk, experiencing words in diverse and meaningful language environments is critical for the development of word reading skill. At its heart is the idea that reading provides exposure to words in many different contexts, episodes, and experiences which, over time, sum to a rich and nuanced database about their lexical history within an individual’s experience. These rich and diverse encounters bring about local variation at the word level: a lexical legacy that is measurable during word reading behaviour, even in skilled adults. This framing also helps us understand how semantic variables influence word-level lexical processing in tasks such as lexical decision.

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