The Value of Vocalizing: Five-Month-Old Infants Associate Their Own Noncry Vocalizations With Responses From Caregivers


  • Portions of these data were presented at the 2007 biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, MA. This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We thank Maurice Haynes and Diane Putnick for their assistance with data analysis. We thank Fern Baldwin, Casey Berson, Rachel Brandstadter, Jacqueline Briesch, Mi Hae Chung, Melissa Frankel, Angela Narayan, Jessie Northrup,Virtue Sankoh, Rachel Wechsler, Alissa Worly, and Veronika Zeppenfeld for their assistance with coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Michael H. Goldstein, Department of Psychology, Cornell University, 242 Uris Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14853-7601. Electronic mail may be sent to


The early noncry vocalizations of infants are salient social signals. Caregivers spontaneously respond to 30%–50% of these sounds, and their responsiveness to infants’ prelinguistic noncry vocalizations facilitates the development of phonology and speech. Have infants learned that their vocalizations influence the behavior of social partners? If they have, infants should show an extinction burst in vocalizing when adults temporarily stop responding to infant vocalizations. Thirty-eight 5-month-olds were tested in the still-face paradigm with an unfamiliar adult. When the adult assumed a still face, infants showed an extinction burst. Thus, 5-month-olds have learned the social efficacy of their vocalizations on caregivers’ behavior. Furthermore, the magnitude of 5-month infants’ extinction bursts predicted their language comprehension at 13 months.