Do Babies Learn from Baby Media?

DeLoache, J. S., Chiong, C., Sherman, K., Islam, N., Vanderborght, M., Troseth, G. L., Strouse, G. A., and O’Doherty, K. (2011). Do babies learn from baby media? Psychological Science, 21(11), 1570-1574.

In America alone, parents of infants spend hundreds of millions of dollars on baby media with the expectation that it will increase the vocabulary of their young children. The question of whether babies actually learn from these DVDs and videos is of interest to many psychologists. DeLoache, Chiong, Sherman, Islam, Vanderborght, Troseth, Strouse, and O’Doherty (2011) investigated the degree to which a well-known infant DVD advanced word learning. The participants, 72 infants ages 12 to 18 months, were randomly assigned to four conditions:

1. Video-with-interaction: parents and children watched the video together with everyday interaction.
2. Video-with-no-interaction: children watched the video alone while parents were close by but engaged in a separate activity.
3. Parent-teaching: children did not watch the video; parents attempted to teach the 25 words that were presented on the video.
4. Control: no intervention.

Infants who watched the DVD did not learn more words than the infants who did not watch the DVD. In fact, the parent-taught infants learned more words than those in the other conditions. According to the researchers, young children lack the ability to use information that is communicated symbolically, such as in pictures, videos, or models, and it is therefore more beneficial for parents to engage in “conversations” with their infants rather than spending time and money on baby media products. Although many parents claim that such DVDs are successful in enhancing their infants’ vocabularies, these parents are most likely witnessing normal development that takes place naturally during the early years of life.

Making Connections

Language development

Media Supplement

Judy DeLoache explains this study and presents clips of parents and children to illustrate each condition and the method of vocabulary assessment. (6 min 18 sec ) See Judy DeLoache’s talk