Language can be used to move thoughts between minds, even those separated by considerable distance or time. The speaker takes a thought, packages it up into a series of sounds (or gestures), from which the listener must recover the original thought. This alone would be an impressive feat difficult for science to explain. We must also explain how children learn these procedures.
Our research considers all aspects of this problem. Recent research is focused on three interrelated problems: bootstrapping language acquisition, language and common sense, and critical periods.
Methodologically, the lab uses a number of well-established methods, such as judgment studies, eye-tracking, and ERPs. However, we are particularly interested in exploring and exploiting new and emerging methods. One such method is testing tens or even hundreds of thousands of children and adults over the Internet, and in doing so being able to study questions that were previously out of reach (for instance, see this paper). This work involves both viral quizzes that recruit large numbers of subjects and also citizen science projects, in which volunteer, amateur researchers help analyze linguistic phenomena.