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The role of attention in speech perception by young infants

Two experiments explored how attentional focus affects the perception of speech in 90 4-day-old and 72 2-mo-old infants from US and French homes, respectively. Attentional focus was manipulated by changing the composition of a set of syllables to which infants were habituated. In Exp 1, Ss were familiarized with sets of stimuli that included members judged to cluster together in perceptual space. Under these conditions, 4-day-olds and 2-mo-olds detected the addition of a new syllable to the set. In Exp 2, 1 of the familiarization sets was chosen to include members that were perceptually dissimilar. In this situation, 2-mo-olds, but not 4-day-olds, detected the addition of a new syllable that was similar to 1 familiarization set member. Results have implications for the way in which basic speech perception capacities are attuned to sound structure of the native language. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)



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