Newswise — ITHACA, NY — Using eye tracking technology, researchers at Ithaca College and UCLA and have found that gestures mothers use in teaching their infants new words are vital for infant word learning. The findings were presented in Berlin, Germany, at the biennial conference sponsored by the International Society on Infant Studies (ISIS).

Nancy Rader, professor of psychology at Ithaca College, and Patricia Zukow-Goldring, research scholar at UCLA, report that mothers’ gestures direct infant attention in such a way that infants look directly at the relevant object as the word for it is introduced. They found by measuring the child’s pupil diameter that the gesture also results in enhanced arousal and better attention just at the time the infant views the object and hears the word for it. The result? Babies 9 to 15 months of age learn a new word significantly better when the gesture is used than without it.

ISIS highlights research on development during the foundational early years. Rebecca Post, who recently earned her degree in applied psychology from Ithaca College, presented the research findings at the conference.

For more information, contact Nancy Rader at [email protected].


From day one, Ithaca College prepares students for personal and professional success through hands-on experience with internships, research and study abroad. Its integrative curriculum builds bridges across disciplines and uniquely blends liberal arts and professional study. Located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, the College is home to 6,100 undergraduate and 400 graduate students and offers over 100 degree programs in its schools of Business, Communications, Humanities and Sciences, Health Science and Human Performance, and Music.