Faculty profile

Jenny Saffran

Jenny Saffran

Dept. of Psychology
528 Psychology
(608) 262-9942


Research Keywords

learning, language, development, music, infancy


  • Department of Psychology, Professor
  • Group Coordinator, Communication and Cognitive Processes Group, Waisman Center

Current Projects

  • Laboratory Director, Infant Learning Laboratory

Research Collaborators

Representative Classes

  • Psych 421: Psychology of Language
  • Psych 733: Language Development
  • Psych 560: Child Psychology

Research Statement

How do children acquire their native language? My research focuses on the kinds of learning abilities required to master the complexities of language. Three broad issues characterize my work. One line of research asks what kinds of learning emerge in infancy. A second line of research probes the biases that shape human learning abilities, and the relationship between these biases and the structure of human languages. A third issue concerns the extent to which the learning abilities underlying this process are specifically tailored for language acquisition. Related research concerns infant music perception, and the relationship between music and language learning.

Selected Publications

  • Thiessen, E.D., Hill, E., & Saffran, J.R. (2005). Infant-directed speech facilitates work segmentation. Infancy, 7, 53-71.
  • McMullen, E., & Saffran, J.R. (2004). Music and language: A developmental comparison. Music Perception, 21, 289-311.
  • Saffran, J.R. (2003). Statistical language learning: Mechanisms and constraints. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 110-114.
  • Saffran, J.R., & Thiessen E.D. (2003). Pattern induction by infant language learners. Developmental Psychology, 39, 1926-1928.
  • Saffran, J.R., Aslin, R.N., & Newport, E.L. (1996). Statistical learning by 8-month old infants. Science, 274, 1926-1928.