Dr. Janet F. Werker is University Killam Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Werker is the founder and a member of the Early Development Research Group, a consortium of six research centers interested in the development of language, learning, and social understanding in infants and children, and founder and co-Director of the UBC Language Sciences, an interdisciplinary research and teaching initiative https://languagesciences.ubc.ca.
Werker is internationally recognized for her research investigating the perceptual foundations of language acquisition in both monolingual and bilingual learning infants. Her over 150 papers and chapters, have appeared in prestigious journals including Science, Nature, Nature Communications, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Science, and Cognition as well as in the premier journals in developmental psychology, language, and perception. Her research is funded by NSERC, SSHRC, and CIFAR in Canada, and by the NIH in the U.S. Previous funding sources include the Human Frontiers Science Program, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, and NTT Laboratories.
My research focuses on understanding the roots of language acquisition, by studying speech perception in infancy, the mechanisms by which native speech sound categories are acquired, and how speech perception supports early word learning. We study infants from hours after birth up to toddler hood using behavioral, electrophysiological (ERP), and non-invasive optical neural imaging using near-infrared-spectroscopy (NIRS). We study infants growing up in different language environments, infants growing up bilingual, and infants with, or at risk for, developmental disabilities. In collaboration, I also explore the nature of critical periods that underlie developmental change. In a SSHRC Partnership Grant I lead, we are now extending this work to examine how early language acquisition informs and supports later literacy, with a focus on the role linguistic and cultural context.
Werker, J.F. (2018). Perceptual beginnings to language acquisition. [Target article with peer commentaries]. Applied Psycholinguistics, 39(4), 703-728.
Choi, D., Black, A., & Werker, J.F. (2018). Cascading and multisensory influences on speech perception development. Mind, Brain, & Education, 12(4), 212-223.
Kandhadai, P., Hall, D.G., & Werker, J.F. (2017). Second label learning in monolingual and bilingual infants. Developmental Science, 20(1), e12429.
May, L., Gervain, J., Carreiras, M., & Werker, J.F. (2017). The specificity of the neural response to speech at birth. Developmental Science, e12564.
Gervain, J., Werker, J.F., Black, A., & Geffen, M.N. (2016). The neural correlates of processing scale-invariant environmental sounds at birth. Neuroimage, 133, 144-150.
Bruderer, A.G., Danielson, D.K., Kandhadai, P., & Werker, J.F. (2015). Sensorimotor influences on speech perception in infancy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(44), 13531-13536.
Werker, J.F., & Hensch, T.K. (2015). Critical Periods in Speech Perception: New Directions. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 173-196.
Kandhadai, P., Danielson, D.K., & Werker, J.F. (2014). Culture as a binder for bilingual acquisition. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 3, 24-27.
Maurer, D., & Werker, J.F. (2014). Perceptual Narrowing During Infancy: A Comparison of Language and Faces. Developmental Psychobiology, 56, 154-178.
- Member of US National Academy of Sciences (2020)
- William James Fellow Award, Association for Psychological Science (2019)
- Canada Research Chair (2001-2007 & 2008-2013 & 2015-2021)
- Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Fellow (2004-2021)
- Killam Prize in Social Sciences (2018)
- Officer of the Order of Canada (2017)
- Pickering Centre for Research in Human Development Award (2017)
- University Killam Professor (2016)
- Social Science and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal (2015)
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow (2014)
- Cognitive Science Society Fellow (2013)
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow (2006)
- Association for Psychological Science Fellow (2005-2009)
- Canadian Psychological Association Fellow (1996)
- Royal Society of Canada Fellow (1996)
Dawoon (Sheri) Choi, PhD student
Julie Youngers, MA student
Nathalie Czeke, Visiting PhD student from the University of Konstanz