Nicole Altvater-Mackensen, Nivedita Mani, and Tobias Grossmann (2016)

Audiovisual speech perception in infancy: The influence of vowel identity and infants’ productive abilities on sensitivity to (mis)matches between auditory and visual speech cues

Developmental Psychology, 52(2):191-204.

Recent studies suggest that infants’ audiovisual speech perception is influenced by articulatory experience (Mugitani et al., 2008; Yeung & Werker, 2013). The current study extends these findings by testing if infants’ emerging ability to produce native sounds in babbling impacts their audiovisual speech perception. We tested 44 6-month-olds on their ability to detect mismatches between concurrently presented auditory and visual vowels and related their performance to their productive abilities and later vocabulary size. Results show that infants’ ability to detect mismatches between auditory and visually presented vowels differs depending on the vowels involved. Furthermore, infants’ sensitivity to mismatches is modulated by their current articulatory knowledge and correlates with their vocabulary size at 12 months of age. This suggests that—aside from infants’ ability to match nonnative audiovisual cues (Pons et al., 2009)—their ability to match native auditory and visual cues continues to develop during the first year of life. Our findings point to a potential role of salient vowel cues and productive abilities in the development of audiovisual speech perception, and further indicate a relation between infants’ early sensitivity to audiovisual speech cues and their later language development.

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