Rachel Barr

Rachel Barr
Georgetown University | GU · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

140
Publications
62,234
Reads
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5,009
Citations
Introduction
My research examines infant learning and imitation from multiple sources, including television, books and touchscreens.
Additional affiliations
August 2001 - present
Georgetown University
Position
  • Learning from media during early childhood
Description
  • The ELP seeks to better understand how infants learn and remember information during the first two years of life. In particular, we focus on how infants obtain information from various media sources such as television, books, and computers.
July 1998 - July 2001
Education
January 1994 - July 1998
University of Otago
Field of study
  • Psychology

Publications

Publications (140)
Article
The American Academy of Pediatrics has historically discouraged media exposure for children under two due to the absence of evidence supporting its benefits and the potential for negative effects (AAP, 2011); however, the AAP has begun to recognize that all screen time may not be equal (Brown, Shifrin, & Hill, 2015). For example, many young childre...
Article
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This study examined the effect of a “ghost” demonstration on toddlers’ imitation. In the ghost condition, virtual pieces moved to make a fish or boat puzzle. Fifty-two 2.5- and 3-year-olds were tested on a touchscreen (no transfer) or with 3D pieces (transfer); children tested with 3D pieces scored above a no demonstration baseline, but children te...
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Early childhood is characterized by memory capacity limitations and rapid perceptual and motor development [Rovee-Collier (1996). Infant Behavior & Development, 19, 385–400]. The present study examined 2-year olds’ reproduction of a sliding action to complete an abstract fish puzzle under different levels of memory load and perceptual feature suppo...
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Interactional quality has been shown to enhance learning during book reading and play, but has not been examined during touch screen use. Learning to apply knowledge from a touch screen is complex for infants because it involves transfer of learning between a two-dimensional (2D) screen and three-dimensional (3D) object in the physical world. This...
Article
COVID‐19 disrupted infant contact with people beyond the immediate family. Because grandparents faced higher COVID‐19 risks due to age, many used video chat instead of interacting with their infant grandchildren in person. We conducted a semi‐naturalistic, longitudinal study with 48 families, each of whom submitted a series of video chats and surve...
Article
We developed a new object sequencing imitation (OSI) task for preschoolers. We parameterized the task to test the effects of working memory load in 56 3- to 5-year-old children in a museum. We tested individual groups of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds on both “low” (2- to 4-step) and “high” (3- to 5-step) memory load sequences on two variants of the task....
Article
Recent research has started to examine problematic media use in early childhood. However, the vast majority of research has been questionnaire based, has assumed relative within-person stability in problematic media use patterns, and has rarely examined antecedents to problematic media use. We utilized an ecological momentary assessment design (EMA...
Article
Although prior research has independently linked vocabulary development with toddlers' media usage, parental mental state talk (MST), and parent–child conversational turn‐taking (CTT), these variables have not been investigated within the same study. In this study, we focus on associations between these variables and 2‐year‐old's (N = 87) vocabular...
Article
Aims and objectives The aim of this manuscript is to provide an overview of the population and languages studied and the methods and practices surrounding the definition of bilingualism in children below age 3. Methodology A quantitative descriptive scoping review Data and analysis From 530 articles, we identified 127 papers (167 studies) that me...
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Extensive evidence and theory suggest that the development of motor skills during infancy and early childhood initiates a "developmental cascade" for cognitive abilities, such as reading and math. Motor skills are closely connected with the development of spatial cognition, an ability that supports deductive reasoning. Despite the linkage between m...
Article
Beginning during infancy, digital media are a pervasive part of family life, affecting opportunities to learn and time in family relationships. Research showing the potentially negative impacts of media on very young children led to recommendations of restricted media usage. Other research has examined how educational media can promote child outcom...
Preprint
Full-text available
Aims and Objectives The aim of this manuscript is to provide an overview of the population and languages studied and the methods and practices surrounding the definition of bilingualism in children below age three.MethodologyA quantitative descriptive scoping reviewData and AnalysisFrom 530 articles, we identified 127 papers (167 studies) that met...
Article
Full-text available
When children learn their native language, they tend to treat objects as if they only have one label—a principle known as mutual exclusivity. However, bilingual children are faced with a different cognitive challenge—they need to learn to associate two labels with one object. In the present study, we compared bilingual and monolingual 24‐month‐olds...
Article
Video chat may allow young children and grandparents to develop and maintain bonds when they are physically separated because it enables them to share experiences with each other in real time. We used an ecological model framework to examine factors associated with the development of the grandparent–grandchild relationship during the COVID‐19 pande...
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Studies have demonstrated that parents often exhibit a still face while silently reading their cell phones when responding to texts. Such disruptions to parent-child interactions have been observed during parental media use such as texting and these disruptions have been termed technoference. In the present study, we explored changes to mother-chil...
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Background Heavy media use has been linked to sleep problems in children, which may also extend to the infancy period. While international parent-advisory agencies, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (2016), advise no screen time before 18 months, parents often do not follow this recommendation. Research on Italian infants’ early access to...
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Digital media (DM), such as cellphones and tablets, are a common part of our daily lives and their usage has changed the communication structure within families. Thus, there is a risk that the use of DM might result in fewer opportunities for interactions between children and their parents leading to fewer language learning moments for young childr...
Article
Humans imitate patently irrelevant actions known as overimitation, and rather than decreasing with age, overimitation increases with age. Whereas most overimitation research has focused on social factors associated with overimitation, comparatively little is known about the cognitive- and task-specific features that influence overimitation. Specifi...
Article
Observed disruptions to parent-child interactions during parental media use, such as texting, have been termed technoference. For example, when a language learning interaction was disrupted by a phone call, toddlers were less likely to acquire the word. Other studies demonstrated that parents often exhibit a still face while silently reading inform...
Preprint
When children learn their native language, they tend to treat objects as if they only have one label—a principle known as mutual exclusivity (ME). However, bilingual children are faced with a different cognitive challenge—they need to learn to associate two labels with one object. In the present study, we compared bilingual and monolingual 24-month...
Article
Determining the meanings of words requires language learners to attend to what other people say. However, it behooves a young language learner to simultaneously encode relevant non‐verbal cues, for example, by following the direction of their eye gaze. Sensitivity to cues such as eye gaze might be particularly important for bilingual infants, as th...
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The language environment is important for the development of early communication and language. In the current study, we describe the natural home language environment of 9-month-old infants in Sweden and its concurrent association with language development. Eighty-eight families took part in the study. The home language environment was measured usi...
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Digital media availability has surged over the past decade. Because of a lack of comprehensive measurement tools, this rapid growth in access to digital media is accompanied by a scarcity of research examining the family media context and sociocognitive outcomes. There is also little cross-cultural research in families with young children. Modern m...
Article
Working memory (WM) develops rapidly during early childhood. In the present study, visual WM (VSM) was measured using the well‐established Spin the Pots task (Hughes & Ensor, 2005), a complex non‐verbal eight‐location object occlusion task. A self‐ordered hiding procedure was adopted to allow for an examination of children's strategy use during a V...
Article
Background and objectives: Child mobile device use is increasingly prevalent, but research is limited by parent-report survey methods that may not capture the complex ways devices are used. We aimed to implement mobile device sampling, a set of novel methods for objectively measuring child mobile device use. Methods: We recruited 346 English-spe...
Article
Developmental science theory and empirical research on refugee situations requires an updated approach to the study of trauma as a multi-systemic and multilevel phenomenon. We present a theoretical framework that integrates developmental science approaches to highlight critical threats to development in situations of violent displacement. Given the...
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Background: Media use is pervasive among young children. Over 95% of homes in the US have one or more televisions, and access to screen-based media continues to grow with the availability of new technologies. Broadly, exposure to large amounts of screen-based media is negatively related to language and literacy skills; however, questions remain as...
Preprint
Determining the meanings of words requires language learners to attend to what other people say. However, it behooves a young language learner to simultaneously attend to what other people attend to, for example, by following the direction of their eye gaze. Sensitivity to cues such as eye gaze might be particularly important for bilingual infants,...
Article
Full-text available
This article provides a description of eye movement data collected during an ocular-motor serial reaction time task. Raw gaze data files for 63 infants and 24 adults along with the data processing and analysis script for extracting saccade latencies, summarizing participants' performance, and testing statistical differences, are hosted on Open Scie...
Article
Abstract Many families today use video chat to help their babies develop or maintain relationships with remote family members; however, there is very little existing research that systematically compares infant emotional engagement during face-to-face and video mediated interactions. A laboratory experiment was carried out with 49 infants between t...
Article
Procedural memory underpins the learning of skills and habits. It is often tested in children and adults with sequence learning on the serial reaction time (SRT) task, which involves manual motor control. However, due to infants' slowly developing control of motor actions, most procedures that require motor control cannot be examined in infancy. He...
Article
Typically developing (TD) children exhibit a transfer deficit imitating significantly less from screen demonstrations compared to a live demonstrations. Although many interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include video materials, little research exists comparing the effectiveness of video demonstration over live instruction...
Article
Bilingual infants from 6‐ to 24‐months of age are more likely to generalize, flexibly reproducing actions on novel objects significantly more often than age‐matched monolingual infants are. In the current study, we examine whether the addition of novel verbal labels enhances memory generalization in a perceptually complex imitation task. We hypothe...
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Media is so pervasive that it should no longer be considered a nuisance variable that could affect development; rather, it should be seen as a fundamental part of the context in which development occurs. Despite the rapid growth in access to digital media, there is a scarcity of research examining changes in the family media ecology and the subsequ...
Article
The use of global, standardized instruments is conventional among clini-cians and researchers interested in assessing neurocognitive development. Exclusively relying on these tests for evaluating effects may underestimate or miss specific effects on early cognition. The goal of this review is to identify alternative measures for possible inclusion...
Article
Multiple factors influence imitation during toddlerhood, including task complexity, social contingency, and individual differences. We conducted a secondary data analysis of individual differences in self‐generated labelling using data collected from a complex puzzle imitation task with 355 2‐ to 3‐year‐olds. This analysis indicated that toddlers’...
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Why do fathers matter? Recent conceptual and theoretical advances regarding father–child relationships have demonstrated that fathers affect children's outcomes both directly and indirectly. To attain a complete developmental account of the ecologically rich contexts of child development, in this article, we recommend best practices regarding the c...
Chapter
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This collection of research chapters and commentaries was organized around the myriad and intersecting roles that child factors, content attributes, and contextual features play in determining which, whether, and why young children are affected by media exposure. By considering the young child as embedded in and interacting with particular contexts...
Article
Although many relatives use video chat to keep in touch with toddlers, key features of adult-toddler interaction like joint visual attention (JVA) may be compromised in this context. In this study, 25 families with a child between 6 and 24 months were observed using video chat at home with geographically separated grandparents. We define two types...
Chapter
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Today, a deployed father can still interact and even play with his infant at home. In fact, families report using video chat services like Skype or FaceTime to help their children develop and maintain relationships with remote grandparents and with parents who are separated from them by work), divorce, immigration, or military deployment). This cha...
Chapter
The majority of media exposure for children under 8 years consists of television. Studies examining associations between media exposure and developmental outcomes suggest that television effects are dependent upon content (e.g., educational content predicts positive outcomes, entertainment content predicts poorer outcomes). Preschool children have...
Chapter
As children’s exposure to touchscreen technology and other digital media increases, so does the need to understand the conditions under which children are able to learn from this technology. The prevalence of screen media in the lives of young children has increased significantly over the last two decades. The use of touchscreen devices among 2-4-y...
Book
This book discusses the burgeoning world of young children’s exposure to educational media and its myriad implications for research, theory, practice, and policy. Experts across academic disciplines and the media fill knowledge gaps and address concerns regarding apps, eBooks, and other screen-based technologies—which are being used by younger and...
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The current study examined if bilingual advantages in cognitive control influence memory encoding during a divided attention task. Monolinguals, simultaneous bilinguals, and sequential bilinguals switched between classifying objects and words, then were tested for their recognition memory of stimuli previously seen during the classification task. C...
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In contrast to other primates, human children's imitation performance goes from low to high fidelity soon after infancy. Are such changes associated with the development of other forms of learning? We addressed this question by testing 215 children (26–59 months) on two social conditions (imitation, emulation) – involving a demonstration – and two...
Article
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During the first 5 years of life, the versatility, breadth, and fidelity with which children imitate 15 change dramatically. Currently, there is no model to explain what underlies such significant changes. To that end, the present study examined whether task-independent but domain-specific—elemental— imitation mechanism explains performance across...
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Humans excel at mirroring both others' actions (imitation) as well as others' goals and intentions (emulation). As most research has focused on imitation, here we focus on how social and asocial learning predict the development of goal emulation. We tested 215 preschool children on two social conditions (imitation, emulation) and two asocial condit...
Article
Full-text available
Humans excel at mirroring both others' actions (imitation) as well as others' goals and intentions (emulation). As most research has focused on imitation, here we focus on how social and asocial learning predict the development of goal emulation. We tested 215 preschool children on two social conditions (imitation, emulation) and two asocial condit...
Article
Although children’s contact with involved, committed, nonresidential fathers can improve social, emotional, cognitive, and academic outcomes, fathers have largely been absent from parenting interventions that overlook men’s role as a critical parenting partner. This article details research showing that young incarcerated fathers’ attitudes about—a...
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Young children typically demonstrate a transfer deficit, learning less from video than live presentations. Semantically meaningful context has been demonstrated to enhance learning in young children. We examined the effect of a semantically meaningful context on toddlers' imitation performance. Two-and 2.5-year-olds participated in a puzzle imitati...
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Socioeconomic status (SES) is strongly associated with cognition and achievement. Socioeconomic disparities in language and memory skills have been reported from elementary school through adolescence. Less is known about the extent to which such disparities emerge in infancy. Here, 179 infants from socioeconomically diverse families were recruited....
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The specificity of the bilingual advantage in memory was examined by testing groups of monolingual, bilingual, and trilingual 24-month-olds on tasks tapping cued recall, memory generalization and working memory. For the cued recall and memory generalization conditions, there was a 24-h delay between time of encoding and time of retrieval. In additi...
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Bilingual advantages in memory flexibility, indexed using a memory generalization task, have been reported (Brito & Barr, 2012; 2014), and the present study examines what factors may influence memory performance. The first experiment examines the role of language similarity; bilingual 18-month-old infants exposed to two similar languages (Spanish-C...
Article
Memory flexibility is a hallmark of the human memory system. As indexed by generalization between perceptually dissimilar objects, memory flexibility develops gradually during infancy. A recent study has found a bilingual advantage in memory generalization at 18 months of age [Brito and Barr [2012] Developmental Science, 15, 812-816], and the prese...
Article
Objective: This study was designed to examine how parenting style, media exposure, and cumulative risk were associated with executive functioning (EF) during early childhood. Methods: A nationally representative group of US parents/caregivers (N = 1156) with 1 child between 2 and 8 years participated in a telephone survey. Parents were asked to...
Article
The purpose of this study was to examine how parents and children interact during traditional and computer storybook reading in their home. Thirty-nine, 4-year old children read both a traditional and a computer storybook with a parent. Parent responsiveness and child verbalizations were coded during each type of book reading experience (traditiona...
Chapter
Full-text available
The quality of parent-child relationships, particularly during the first five years of life, has been recognized as an important predictor of a child’s development. Dyadic behaviors, like joint attention and turn taking, rapidly accumulate into complex and meaningful scripts of social interaction. Infants first build their knowledge of the world du...
Article
The absence of a father figure has been linked to very poor developmental outcomes for the child. During incarceration, there are limited opportunities for visitation between fathers and their children. The Baby Elmo Program provides incarcerated teen fathers with parenting training and visitation with their children with the stated goal of enhanci...
Article
The concept of spreading activation describes how retrieval of one memory cues retrieval of other memories that are associated with it. This study explored spreading activation in 6-, 12-, and 18-month-old infants. Infants (n = 144) learned two tasks within the same experimental session; one task, deferred imitation (DI), is typically remembered lo...
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Full-text available
The past 15 years have seen an explosion of educational books, videos/DVDs, and touchscreen applications developed specifically for infants. Although infants interact with these symbolic artifacts on a daily basis, they have difficulty going beyond the symbolic source and transferring learning to real-world situations. Infants imitate fewer actions...