Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study Contradicts Conventional Wisdom that Perceptual Abilities Improve as We Grow

25.06.2009
A study of Spanish- and English- learning infants provides evidence that our perceptual abilities do not improve as we get older, and that younger infants may actually be better at integrating facial speech gestures and vocalizations than older infants. The developmental decline in this ability may be due to increasing specialization for native-language phonology as infants learn their own speech and language.

Conventional wisdom says that human perceptual and cognitive functions broaden and improve as humans grow and mature, but a study published in the June 17 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence that the opposite occurs in infant perception of audiovisual speech.

Researchers from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University and the Universities of Barcelona and Pompeu Fabra in Spain studied English-learning infants in the United States and Spanish-learning infants in Spain to determine if they can perceive people’s facial speech gestures and accompanying vocalizations as part of the same event.

The ability do this is crucial for adaptive communication. Dr. David J. Lewkowicz, professor of psychology in FAU’s College of Science and head of the Infant Development Laboratory, and his colleagues, Drs. Ferran Pons, Salvador Soto-Faraco and Núria Sebastián-Gallés from Spain, hypothesized that younger infants may actually be better at integrating facial speech gestures and vocalizations than older infants and that the developmental decline in this ability may be due to increasing specialization for native-language phonology as infants learn their own speech and language.

“Our hypothesis is contrary to conventional wisdom because it assumes that perceptual abilities improve as infants develop,” said Lewkowicz. “Consistent with our hypothesis, we found that younger infants could integrate the facial and vocal gestures of foreign speech sounds, but that older infants no longer did.”

The results of this study provide the first evidence that perception of audiovisual non-native speech narrows during infancy precisely during the time that infants are acquiring their native language phonological system. These researchers demonstrate that the perceptual system becomes gradually tuned to key native-language audio-visual correspondence, and as it does so, sensitivity to the phonetic information inherent in foreign language sounds declines.

To investigate their hypothesis, the researchers presented infants with speech syllables (/ba/ and /va/) that are distinguishable to English speakers but not to Spanish speakers. During the experiment, infants first watched side-by-side videos of the same person silently and repeatedly uttering a /ba/ syllable on one computer monitor and a /va/ syllable on the other monitor. Results of this test showed that the infants did not prefer one syllable over the other. Then, the researchers allowed the infants to listen to either the /ba/ or the /va/ syllable for 45 seconds and then tested their preferences for the visual syllables again by showing the silent versions of the side-by-side syllables. This time, the six-month-old Spanish infants showed a clear preference for the visible syllable that matched the audible syllable that they had just heard, indicating that they perceived them as belonging together. In contrast, the 11-month-old Spanish infants did not show such a preference indicating that they did not perceive the audible and visible syllables as belonging together. This latter finding was consistent with the fact that the /v/ sound does not exist in Spanish and with the idea that the older Spanish-learning infants’ greater experience with the Spanish language reduced their sensitivity to the visible and audible sounds of other languages.

Unlike the decline in the ability to integrate auditory and visual speech in Spanish-learning infants, the researchers found that both six-month-old and 11-month-old English-learning infants successfully matched the audible and visible syllables. In addition, the researchers confirmed that the decline in the perception of non-native audiovisual speech persists into adulthood by showing that Spanish adults were unable to integrate the same syllables that were presented to the infants, but that English adults easily did.

“It is important to emphasize that the perceptual narrowing that we found does not reflect a complete loss of perceptual sensitivity to non-native sensory inputs,” said Lewkowicz. “Rather, it reflects a reorganization of perceptual mechanisms that then leads to decreased sensitivity to non-native sensory inputs.”

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses strategically located along 150 miles of Florida's southeastern coastline. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts ten colleges: College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the Barry Kaye College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

Gisele Galoustian | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.fau.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>