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Experimental Methods

In our projects, we use the following behavioral experimental methods to elucidate children developing language and cognitive abilities:

Real time processing of words and sentences, using the eye-tracking-while-listening

Eye tracking allows measuring the participant’s eye movements. While the participant is watching pictures or short video clips on a screen and listens to spoken language, an infrared camera tracks the eye movements. The camera is mounted under the monitor without attracting attention. Eye-tracking allows us to measure the participant’s gazes and looking times. These implicit measures are assumed to reflect the processing of language input in real time.

Elicited production of words and sentences

In the context of a game situation, we encourage the child to produce certain words or sentences that might be avoided in spontaneous speech because they are rare or complex. Thus, elicited production allows us to assess children’s expressive abilities that might not emerge in their everyday spontaneous interactions.

Picture selection to test comprehension of words and sentences

In picture selection tasks, the child listens to a word or a sentence and is, at the same time, presented with a set of pictures. One of the pictures depicts the meaning of the word or sentence whereas the other pictures are, for different reasons, incorrect. Children are encouraged to select the picture which matches at best what he or she has heard. This task serves to assess children’s comprehension of linguistic structures and it is also widely used by speech and language therapists.