Our developmental work mainly focuses on early language learning by examining perceptual-conceptual underpinnings of relational language (verbs-prepositions), how children express relational words in both speech-gesture, and what factors influence learning these words. Below are the main lines of our research in this area:
Event representation and relational & causal language: This line of work focuses on early language learning by examining perceptual-conceptual underpinnings of relational language (verbs-prepositions), how children express relational words in both speech-gesture, and what factors influence learning these words. We argue that to learn relational words, infants first universally notice a common set of foundational components in events – dividing the world in language-ready ways. As children learn how to express event components in their native language, they highlight certain components over others and metaphorically trade spaces; moving from being ‘language-generalists’ to ‘language-specific interpreters’ of events. In the process of learning relational language, infants not only attend to components of events, but language might also serve as a tool for constructing complex event concepts. We investigate event representations and learning relational language from a cross-linguistic perspective at different levels of representations and in different populations (full-term children, preterm children, children with brain injury, bilingual children). We focus on typically and atypically developing children in longitudinal studies. We also examine different cognitive mechanisms that may be in interaction with language development such as pretend play skills, causal reasoning, and relational reasoning.
Second Language Learning: In a recently completed European Commission research project named L2TOR (pronounced ‘el tutor’), we aim to design a child-friendly tutor robot that can be used to support teaching preschool children a second language (L2). In this project, we taught English as L2 to Dutch, German and Turkish, and teaching Dutch and German as L2 to immigrant children speaking Turkish as a native language. This project is conducted in a consortium Consortium: Plymouth University, Koç University, Utrecht University, Tilburg University, Bielefeld University, Alderaban Robotics & QBMT (http://www.l2tor.eu/).
Designing tools for children: In this line of research, together with the Interactive Design researchers, we aim to develop tools for children’s learning of spatial and mathematical concepts. As an exciting interdisciplinary area of research, we design tangible tools and mixed reality systems with and for children. We examine whether children learn better with these technologies and what factors can influence their learning.
Development of aesthetics: In this new exciting line of research, I aim to investigate the early development of aesthetics judgments with particular emphasis on art. The development of visual art preferences is an understudied area in aesthetics research. Yet, it is necessary to understand how our aesthetic appreciation emerges and what factors influence this process during development. A good framework to study early art appreciation with infants and young children requires an examination of the interactions among different components of aesthetic experience (sensation, knowledge, and emotion). This line of research can help identify general perceptual primitives in visual art preferences and how they diverge across development and culture. In addition to these we examine art judgments and art preferences in a cross-cultural study using both implicit (eye-tracking method) and explicit measures (preferences).