Narrowing of intersensory speech perception in infancy

TitleNarrowing of intersensory speech perception in infancy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsPons F, Lewkowicz DJ, Soto-Faraco S, Sebastián-Gallés N
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Date Published06/2009
KeywordsAdult, Analysis of Variance, Auditory Perception, Auditory Perception: physiology, Child Development, Child Development: physiology, Choice Behavior, Choice Behavior: physiology, Female, Humans, Infant, Male, Speech Discrimination Tests, Speech Discrimination Tests: methods, Speech Perception, Speech Perception: physiology, Verbal Learning, Verbal Learning: physiology, Visual Perception, Visual Perception: physiology

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.