The toddler's coordination of speech and play
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The purpose of this study was to explore the toddler's ability to talk during periods of greater and lesser cognitive effort. It was hypothesized that when attentional resources are cognitively taxed, toddlers' speech output would be reduced.;Thirteen toddlers were videotaped in their homes at two years of age, and six months later. Cognitive effort was manipulated by presenting children with two play conditions that varied in demandingness: a problem solving task containing task-oriented toys, and a free play task comprised of standard toys. In addition, the effect of effort was investigated by comparing times in which children were engaged in play (On Periods) with times in which children were not playing (Off Periods). Another way in which the effect of effort was investigated was by distinguishing between two levels of engagement that varied in intensity. Focused Engagement was scored when children showed a concentrated facial expression during goal-oriented activity; Casual Engagement was scored when children played in a more distracted manner.;Tapes were analyzed at 2-s intervals into four categories: play (On) and speech, play (On) and no-speech, no-play (Off) and speech, no-play (Off) and no-speech. Similarly, the presence or absence of speech during Focused Engagement and during Casual Engagement was coded.;The results indicated that (a) the proportion of 2-s points in which speech occurred was lower in problem solving play than in free play, (b) the proportion of 2-s points in which speech occurred was lower in the On Periods than in the Off Periods, especially in problem solving tasks, (c) the proportion of 2-s points in which speech occurred was lower in Focused than Casual Engagement Periods, and (d) the proportion of 2-s points in which speech occurred was lower in Focused Engagement Periods in the first session when language production is assumed to be more effortful than in the second session, when language is assumed to be less effortful.;The finding that speech was most reduced when toddlers exerted the most effort lends support to the hypothesis that speech would be reduced when there is competition for mental resources.
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