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"Peer Pairing" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers have found neural evidence of early learning among infants who were coupled with a peer, as compared to those infants who viewed the instruction alone. Critically, the more often that new, unfamiliar partners were paired with the infants, the better results the babies showed.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Screen test.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: tv static) Researchers at the University of Connecticut and the University of Washington are looking at the on-screen learning behaviors of the youngest population ever studied for it: 9-month-olds. No, they didn't plop 'em down in front of a flat screen spewing out cartoons. The video material involved language-learning. Turned out babies who watched with another baby -- a peer -- were more likely to learn language from on-screen instruction.

(Sound effect: babies communicating) Learning with a social partner provided increased learning stimulation and motivation to learn. Thirty-one infants made up the study group either paired with another or watching alone. The scientists measured patterns of neural responses. Paired infants showed indicators of more mature brain processing of the sounds. And the more often new, unfamiliar partners were paired with the infants, the better the babies' results.

Previous studies have shown children learn language better from live humans than from screens and that it may not be the screen that's the issue, but the lack of interactivity.

The new findings highlight the importance of social interaction for children's learning -- especially for screen media. A strong indication that, when it comes to on-screen learning and infants, two is better than one.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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