Oriented Towards Novelty: Bilingualism and Environmental Exploration

Bilingual experience has been shown to have early and basic effects on environmental exploration. For example, bilingual infants, as early as 6 months of age, demonstrate a preference for visual novelty in their environment, habituate faster to new information, and disengage more rapidly from familiar information to new information. In addition, bilingual infants show greater plasticity and flexibility in discrimination and perception of socially relevant signals (e.g., speech sounds, gaze following). In this talk, I will present a new framework for capturing adaptations associated with bilingual experience, with a focus on early experience with multiple languages. This framework is built on empirical evidence demonstrating fundamental variation in how bilingual learners explore and navigate their environment. I will provide evidence attesting to early shifts in perception and attention in bilingually-exposed infants, associating these early shifts with later learning, memory, and categorization. Finally, I will discuss ways in which this new framework can be submitted to further empirical testing and expanded upon.

Associate Professor Leher Singh

Leher Singh is an Associate Professor and Deputy Director of Humanities and Social Science Research at the National University of Singapore. She directs the NUS Infant and Child Language Centre, which focuses on the impact of bilingualism on early linguistic, visual, and social development. Her research interests include effects of language diversity on the study of language development, the acquisition of tone languages, and on bilingual learners adapt to their environment. She has received independent grant awards from the NIH and NSF (US) and the Ministry of Education and Social Science Research Council (Singapore). She also serves as Associate Editor for Developmental Science and the Journal of Cognition and Development and has led several Special Issues on increasing diversity in developmental science.