The goal of our research is to examine developmental changes in the processing and organization of meaningful auditory information. This is important because the ability to interpret the social and physical world crucially depends on the manner and degree to which acoustic signals activate interpretations and meaning (e.g., semantic representations), and how these meanings relate to one another. To successfully map sounds to meaning and organize meaning, young children are confronted with several significant challenges (e.g., the vast number of potential meanings, the acoustic similarities between sounds, and the temporal nature of auditory processing). Indeed, these issues concern vocabulary development, but also the recognition of meaningful non-linguistic auditory information (i.e., environmental sounds, such as the sound of a dog barking).
Research in the Psycholinguistics Lab is comprised of three interrelated areas: 1) On-line spoken and visual word recognition, 2) The organization of semantic memory, 3) The differences and similarities in verbal (words) and nonverbal (environmental sounds) auditory processing.
To better understand each of these areas, we investigate how these skills are acquired by testing infants and toddlers, their development through adolescence, and the way these skills arrive at the adult end-state. Further, we investigate how the processes that subserve word recognition and semantic organization may change in adverse listening conditions (e.g., soft speech, degraded speech).
We use diverse methods to study these questions, including:
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
- Event-related potentials (ERP)
- Language sampling
- Behavioral responses via touch screens