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Hatano Fellowship Recipient Studies Adult-Infant Communication

January 7, 2016

The UC Merced Graduate Division has awarded the inaugural $1,000 Hatano Cognitive Development Research Fellowship to cognitive and information sciences graduate student Drew Abney.

Abney was chosen from a group of highly qualified applicants by a committee made up of faculty members from the Cognitive and Information Sciences and Psychological Sciences graduate groups. Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz also reviewed all applicant materials and concurred with the selection of Abney.

“The Graduate Division is tremendously grateful to Daryl and Janet Hatano for their support of our graduate students and their work,” Zatz said. “As the inaugural recipient of the Hatano fellowship, Drew exemplifies the research excellence upon which UC Merced prides itself, and his work shows real promise of leading to new information in his field.”

A third-year Ph.D. student, Abney has co-authored fifteen publications, seven of which with UC Merced faculty and graduate students in well respected journals such as the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Cognitive Processing, Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, Frontiers in Cognitive Science, and Ecological Psychology.

Abney’s current research focuses on the way communication develops between infants and adults. Currently, he is working with daylong recordings of 15 adult-infant pairings, looking for vocalization properties and interaction patterns.

The next step for Abney’s research is to collect vocal interactions across diverse populations, such as infants at risk of language delay and infants at risk of diagnosis with autism spectrum disorder. His findings have the potential to provide insights helpful in early diagnosis of atypical development, and also offer new understanding about the development of successful and unsuccessful communication between adults and infants.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply fractal analysis to infant and adult communication behavior in daylong audio recordings,” said one of Abney’s research advisors, Professor Anne Warlaumont. “Now that we have the technology to easily collect this data, the time is ripe for the application of nonlinear time series analysis methods in this field, and Drew is at the forefront.”