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 New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>