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Heather Bortfeld

Photo of Heather Bortfeld
Professional Title: 
(Psychological Sciences / Cognitive Science)

Our research follows two converging lines in Psychology, one in typical language development and one in atypical language development, specifically language learning under adverse listening conditions. The first line looks at how typically developing infants come to recognize words in fluent speech and the extent to which the perceptual abilities underlying this learning process are specific to language. The second line looks at the influence of perceptual, cognitive, and social factors on language development in pediatric cochlear implant users. These children learn language from a speech signal that is substantially degraded relative to the original source, and some do this better than others. We examine possible sources of variability in their learning and how language outcomes can be maximized for this population. Our approach is best characterized as integrating (1) multiple methods, (2) different levels of analysis, and (3) a broad theoretical perspective. The findings from our research underscore the central role of early experience, both perceptual and social, in language development.