Babies Read Lips While Learning to Speak, New Study Suggests

Babies are Lip Readers
Babies are Lip Readers

Have you ever wondered how your baby learns to speak? According to a study, it’s not just by listening to you speak: Babies also read your lips.

“The baby, in order to imitate you, has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they’re hearing,” explains developmental psychologist and study author David Lewkowicz of Florida Atlantic University. “It’s an incredibly complex process.”

The study showed that when spoken to, 4-month-olds gazed mostly into the speakers eyes.  Six-month-olds watched both the eyes and the mouth. At 8 and 10 months, babies studied mostly the mouth. At 12 months, the babies attention started shifting back towards the speaker’s eyes. 

What happened when these babies accustomed to English heard Spanish? The 12-month-olds studied the mouth longer, just like younger babies. They needed the extra information to decipher the unfamiliar sounds.

That fits with research into bilingualism that shows babies’ brains fine-tune themselves to start distinguishing the sounds of their native language over other languages in the first year of life. That’s one reason it’s easier for babies to become bilingual than older children or adults.

The study shows the importance it is to have quality face time with your baby for speech development over say, popping in an educational baby DVD.



Molly blogs about technologymom style and geekery at Digital Mom Blog. Follow her on Twitter @DigitalMolly


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