Your baby doesn’t just pick up on your tone of voice, he or she can lip-read too, suggests amazing new research.
Initially young babies watch people’s eyes when they talk, but scientists have found that from the age of 6 months, babies’ eyes begin to study the movement of mouths when you talk to them. Then by the time they reach their first birthdays, babies go back to looking you in the eye again.
At 6 months, babies’ babble also starts to change into syllables and then eventually becomes their first words. The new study suggests that lip-reading plays a role during this stage of your baby’s development.
“The baby in order to imitate you has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they’re hearing,” said psychologist David Lewkowics of Florida Atlantic University, who led the study.
But, if babies don’t recognise the language you’re speaking, they will lip-read for longer than usual.
The study involved nearly 180 babies, grouped by ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months. The scientists showed videos of a woman speaking in English or Spanish to the babies, who had English-speaking parents.
The babies wore a soft headband with a gadget, which tracked where each baby was focusing his or her eyes on and for how long.
Results of the study showed that when the speaker spoke English, the 4-month-olds mainly looked into her eyes. The 6-month-old babies looked equally at the woman’s eyes and mouth. The 8 to 10-month-olds mostly focused on her mouth. And lastly, the group of 12-month-olds, started to shift their attention back to the woman’s eyes.
When the babies heard the woman speak Spanish, the 12-month-olds were seen studying the mouth for longer, as they needed to more time to understand the unfamiliar sound.
It’s no surprise that babies start to look at lip movement at 6 months, as according to David, that’s the time your baby’s brain gains the ability to control their attention.