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Head Turn

Head Turn Image

The Head turn preference procedure is a popular method used with young infants ranging from 5 to 20 months. How does it work? Children will sit, in a booth, facing forward on their parents’ lap. At the beginning of the study, a light on the wall in front of your child will begin to flash. Just below this flashing light, there is a camera which is for the researcher to see where your child is looking. When they are looking at the light, it will stop flashing and a light either on their right or left hand side will begin to flash. Speakers are built in behind the lights so once children look, a speech stream will be played. The sound will stop if a child looks away from the sound source for longer than two seconds. When the sound stops the green light in front of them will begin to flash and the process begins again. The length of speech a child will hear is dependent on how long they look for, we are then able to determine whether a child has a preference for a speech sample by measuring their looking time.

So what do we use it for? At the moment, we look at language discrimination. We know that English children aged 5 months are capable of distinguishing between English and a foreign language, for example Spanish, due to the very different rhythms. This ability to distinguish languages is actually present from birth. We ask whether five-month-olds can detect differences in languages that have similar rhythms. To do this, we present babies with sentences from Spanish and French, or from Finnish and Spanish, which all have similar rhythm presumably. We then see if they notice the difference between the language they were familiarised with (Spanish) and the second language (French). This is thought to be very tricky as the Spanish and French (or Finnish) have very similar rhythms, which may make them hard to tell apart

"My name is Amiela, I am 5 months old, and I took part in the head turn study. Here is a picture of me. I sat on my mummy’s lap and watched the flashing lights. I then heard a lady speaking funny. Sometimes I liked to stand up and bounce around whilst I listened! I started to play with my feet and mummy wanted me to pay attention to the lights! The Babylab team said I was very clever as I was able to tell that I was hearing two different languages. They gave me a huge balloon and a Babylab t-shirt as a thank you for taking part. I also received my 2nd certificate! Mummy"