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January 2011



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Written by Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD on Monday, November 1.2010
Monday BRIEFS: Quick musings in child related research. 


Fast ForWord is a series of computer programs designed to improve language and reading skills in 4-14 year-old kids with language difficulties. The system is sold and marketed by the Scientific Learning Corporation (www.scilearnglobal.com/the-fast-forword-program/).

The system has been adopted extensively by schools across the USA, Canada, and Australia. Yet, despite such popularity, there is significant controversy regarding the effectiveness of this intervention as the evidence for its efficacy is mixed at best.In the last issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Dr. Gemma Strong and her colleagues at the University of York and the University of Birmingham in the UK published the largest comprehensive meta-analysis of the past studies that have tested whether Fast ForWord is effective. A meta-analysis is a statistical process that groups the results from all previous relevant studies to provide an overall conclusion regarding the outcome of interest. In this case, the authors were interested in four specific outcomes; namely, whether Fast ForWord was effective in improving:

  2. 1.  Standardized measures of single word reading
  3. 2.  Passage reading comprehension
  4. 3.  Receptive Vocabulary
  5. 4.  Expressive Vocabulary
Read in Full:
ScienceDaily (Nov. 4, 2010) — A preschool language intervention program can significantly improve the educational lives of children with poorly developed speech and language skills, according to new research by psychologists at the University of York. 


In the Language 4 Reading project, a team from the University’s Department of Psychology at the University of York have evaluated the benefits of a preschool language intervention program for children who enter school with poorly developed speech and language skills.

The project, which involved 15 schools and feeder-nurseries across Yorkshire, was a randomized controlled trial funded by the Nuffield Foundation. A member of staff from each of the Early Years settings was trained to deliver a language intervention program. 


The program targeted three key areas: vocabulary knowledge, narrative and listening skills, with phonics work included in the later stages. Children took part in three group sessions each week, supplemented by individual work once they entered school.


Read in Full: 


Language Appears To Shape Our Implicit Preferences

Article Date: 05 Nov 2010 – 1:00 PDT
The language we speak may influence not only our thoughts, but our implicit preferences as well. That’s the finding of a study by psychologists at Harvard University, who found that bilingual individuals’ opinions of different ethnic groups were affected by the language in which they took a test examining their biases and predilections. The paper appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
“Charlemagne is reputed to have said that to speak another language is to possess another soul,” says co-author Oludamini Ogunnaike, a graduate student at Harvard. “This study suggests that language is much more than a medium for expressing thoughts and feelings. Our work hints that language creates and shapes our thoughts and feelings as well.” Implicit attitudes, positive or negative associations people may be unaware they possess, have been shown to predict behavior towards members of social groups. Recent research has shown that these attitudes are quite malleable, susceptible to factors such as the weather, popular culture — or, now, by the language people speak.   

Read in Full: 
By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 10, 2010

Children who know two languages tend to perform better than monolinguals on measures of attention and cognitive control.

That is one of the findings in new research on bilingualism reviewed in the current issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. 

The bilingual advantage in attention and cognitive control may have important, long-term benefits as well. Preliminary evidence even suggests that their increased use of these systems may protect bilinguals against Alzheimer’s.

The authors note that “when a bilingual speaks two languages regularly, speaking in just one of these languages requires use of the control network to limit interference from the other language and to ensure the continued dominance of the intended language.” 

Although bilinguals tend to have smaller vocabularies in each language than do children who know one language, bilinguals thus may have an advantage when it comes to certain nonverbal cognitive tasks.


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