Attention to the mouth and gaze following in infancy predict language development

J Child Lang. 2015 Nov;42(6):1173-90. doi: 10.1017/S0305000914000725. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


We investigated longitudinal relations among gaze following and face scanning in infancy and later language development. At 12 months, infants watched videos of a woman describing an object while their passive viewing was measured with an eye-tracker. We examined the relation between infants' face scanning behavior and their tendency to follow the speaker's attentional shift to the object she was describing. We also collected language outcome measures on the same infants at 18 and 24 months. Attention to the mouth and gaze following at 12 months both predicted later productive vocabulary. The results are discussed in terms of social engagement, which may account for both attentional distribution and language onset. We argue that an infant's inherent interest in engaging with others (in addition to creating more opportunities for communication) leads infants to attend to the most relevant information in a social scene and that this information facilitates language learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Language Development*
  • Mouth*
  • Vocabulary