Where language meets attention: How contingent interactions promote learning

Lillian R. Masek, Brianna T.M. McMillan, Sarah J. Paterson, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contingent interactions between caregivers and infants, in which caregivers respond promptly and meaningfully to infants’ behaviors, lay a foundation for language learning. Three pathways have been proposed for how contingent interactions promote the development of language skills: temporal, semantic, and pragmatic. Here, we argue that these pathways act through a reciprocal relation between infant attention and contingent interactions. We present evidence that attention facilitates contingent interactions to help infants understand communicative intent and, in turn, contingent interactions promote attention to allow infants to better learn from the language directed to them. This new framework suggests that contingent interactions operate through domain-general skills, thereby establishing a foundation for learning more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100961
JournalDevelopmental Review
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Attention
  • Infancy
  • Language development
  • Learning
  • Parent-child interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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