Thursday, July 16, 2009

Narrowing of intersensory speech perception in infancy

From Pons et al.:
The conventional view is that perceptual/cognitive development is an incremental process of acquisition. Several striking findings have revealed, however, that the sensitivity to non-native languages, faces, vocalizations, and music that is present early in life declines as infants acquire experience with native perceptual inputs. In the language domain, the decline in sensitivity is reflected in a process of perceptual narrowing that is thought to play a critical role during the acquisition of a native-language phonological system. Here, we provide evidence that such a decline also occurs in infant response to multisensory speech. We found that infant intersensory response to a non-native phonetic contrast narrows between 6 and 11 months of age, suggesting that the perceptual system becomes increasingly more tuned to key native-language audiovisual correspondences. Our findings lend support to the notion that perceptual narrowing is a domain-general as well as a pan-sensory developmental process.

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