Frewin, Kelsey

Frewin, Kelsey
Start date:
January 2019
Research Topic:
Action perception and the sensorimotor system in infant verb language development
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Sarah Gerson, Dr Ross Vanderwert, Dr Chiara Gambi
Supervising school:
School of Psychology,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Early in life, social interaction drives infant development and learning. Infants navigate the world around them through observing and imitating actions and engaging in pre-verbal communication. Actions are key to structuring infantsā€™ development of concepts – they help them form mental representations of objects beyond purely perceptual features into concepts regarding knowledge about how an object behaves. By 14-months-old, infants can identify action based referents of abstract words and can understand the goals and intentions of othersā€™ actions.

However, little research has examined how these early capacities may interact with word learning specifically, which could provide important insight into how childrenā€™s later sophisticated social and language abilities are driven by early skills in perceiving actions.

In the proposed research, I posit that early experiences with actions may mediate linguistic development. Across my PhD, I aim to examine the role that the sensorimotor system, action perception, and action experiences may play in infant verb learning.

I hope to begin identifying how these domains interact when language skills are at a crucial stage of development and are potentially buttressed by the ability to understand the actions of others. Within this context, I intend to address a series of questions that can directly assess what role the sensorimotor system plays in early verb processing, whether active experiences with actions influence infantsā€™ later verb comprehension, and whether individual differences in infantsā€™ motor capacities can predict later verb learning.