Infants learn from meaningful structure in their communicative environments”

Start Date and Time
End Date and Time
Event Location
Zoom link TBD
Casey Lew-Williams

Virginia Tech, Department of Psychology Colloquium Series 2021 presents:

“Infants learn from meaningful structure in their
communicative environments”

By: Casey Lew-Williams. Professor, Department of Psychology, Princeton University

  • Seminar Talk March 11 (Thu) 2021, 3:30 – 4:30 PM

  • Grad student meeting March 11 (Thu) 2021, 4:30 – 5:30 PM

  • In-depth Grad/Faculty meeting March 12 (Fri) 2021, 10:00 – 11:00 AM

  • Location: please contact Dr. Neil Hauenstein for Zoom link details


During natural communication, caregivers pitch statistics at infants, and infants figure out what to pay attention to across milliseconds and months. In doing so, they make progress in detecting and then running with meaningful, naturally variable structure in their environments. I will present a few recent studies examining how caregivers package language to infants, how infants process patterns in the complexities of their input, and how infant-adult dyads align their brains and behaviors during natural play. I will also present findings suggesting that such alignment is relevant to children's learning of new information. The data collectively suggest that fine-grained, predictable statistics embedded in everyday communication are key to understanding the dynamic and consequential nature of early learning. Dr. Casey Lew-Williams is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University. He directs the Princeton Baby Lab, where his students and postdocs study how babies learn, with a particular focus on language and communication. Their work is mainly funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He got his PhD in psychology at Stanford University and was previously on the faculty in at Northwestern University in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. He is co-chief editor at Frontiers for Young Minds, and cofounder of ManyBabies, a team of developmental scientists from six continents who are trying to (1) dig deeper into key findings about infants, (2) learn from each other about best practices in science, and (3) promote diversity in research participants, researchers, and research questions.

Piazza, E. A., Hasenfratz, L., Hasson, U., & Lew-Williams, C. (2020). Infant and adult brains are coupled to the
dynamics of natural communication. Psychological Science, 31, 6-17.
Byers-Heinlein, K., Morin-Lessard, E., & Lew-Williams, C. (2017). Bilingual infants control their languages as
they listen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114, 9032-9037.
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