Catching criminals in action isn’t the only thing surveillance cameras can do– now they are starting to answer hundred year old questions.
Recently, surveillance cameras were used to conduct The Human Speechome Project, an experiment designed to map the way humans acquire speech. The age old question of speech acquisition has been tackled by famous researchers including Noam Chomsky and Eric Lenneberg. From devices in your brain to critical periods there only remains theories about how humans develop language skills.
With the help of surveillance cameras, professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hope to provide some of the first conclusive, data based answers to what seems to be the unsolvable question. Stunted by the limited availability to thoroughly track a child’s language acquisition process, previous studies were only given snapshots of a child’s development in weekly or monthly meetings. Considering the fast paced nature of child development, missing a week, day, and even an hour can mean missing a crucial moment in the child’s development.Surveillance cameras solve that problem as well as a myriad of other problems that affect a diverse group of research.
Professor Pinker, who is also an adviser to the project, said “In developmental psychology there has long been a trade-off between gathering lots of data from a small number of children, or a small amount of data from a much larger number of children.”
The availability and use of surveillance cameras allow researchers to intensify the trade-off by getting an extreme amount of data collected from just one child.
“Just as the Human Genome Project illuminates the innate genetic code that shapes us, the Speechome Project is an important first step toward creating a map of how the environment shapes human development and learning,” said Frank Moss, the director of MIT’s Media Lab at the time. His research already has promising initial results by delving into the process of “word births”, the time when a baby first begins to use a word.
By investigating length as a function of complexity of sentences spoken by parents to children, it is believed that adults subconsciously simplify sentences until the child understands the word. Then adults can increase the complexity of the sentences that they use.
“We essentially meet him at this point of the birth of the word and gently pull him into language,” says a researcher.
Although the results are premature to determine anything as being conclusive, they carry extreme potential to answer question marks that have been looming over the heads of developmental psychologists for years. (via BBC News)