Drew Abney

Charles B. Knapp Early Career Scholar Award 2024

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Drew Abney, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, is an internationally prominent scholar and an intellectual leader in developmental and cognitive science. He studies how behaviors and social interactions affect developmental trajectories through infancy and into toddlerhood. With the research tools of developmental psychology, complex adaptive systems, and artificial intelligence, Abney has conducted highly creative studies focusing on infants’ developing vocalizations and how they change during interactions with caretakers. He has shown that caregivers and infants engage in more coordinated responses when vocalizations are relatively speech-like. He has identified a non-random structure to the clustering of vocalizations by infants as early as 11 days of age. Over the first two years, infants and caregivers become increasingly coordinated, providing the infrastructure for conversational turn-taking. By questioning widely held assumptions about fundamental aspects of communication and trust, Abney offers new and better ways to measure and explore the complex interactions of infants, toddlers, and caregivers.