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Using social cues to help kids learn language

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, Merced, are working with 2-year old children to get a better sense of how they learn the meanings of new words. To do this, social scientist Rose Scott says they're showing these young children short videos that involve made-up words to get a sense of how do they make a first guess of what that word means.

Scott: We record their face while they're watching the movie and what we're going to look at when we're done with the study is, where did the children look at key points?

Narrator: The researchers have added an additional cue, so a person onscreen looks to the right answer as she's talking to help the kids pick up which word goes with which action.

Scott: What we're hoping to learn in the long run is what kinds of social information are helpful to children and in what situations is that information helpful? With the idea being that you would know...OK, if I look at this particular point when I'm talking or if I point like this, that we would be able to tell teachers that and they can be more effective in teaching these children that are having a little more trouble picking it up on their own.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.