Four-Month-Olds Do Not Prefer But Can Discriminate Infant Directed and Adult Directed Pitch Contours
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The purpose of the present study was to investigate the role of pitch contours in directing infant attention to adult speech. Several studies have shown that infants from a few days old to 9 months of age prefer infant-directed (ID) over adult-directed (AD) speech. Moreover, 4-month-olds have been shown to prefer pitch contours that simulate ID speech, suggesting that the exaggerated pitch contours are necessary for infant attention. The current study investigated this attentional preference utilizing ID and AD pitch contours in a fixation-based preference procedure. Results from the first experiment failed to show a similar preference for the ID pitch contours. Because a lack of preference could have been due to a failure to discriminate, a habituation study was also conducted. The results from the second experiment showed that 4-month-olds can discriminate the ID and AD pitch contours. From these results, it is argued that the pitch contour may be but one of many possible prosodic characteristics that attract infant attention and this attention may occur only within a language context. It is suggested that future studies investigate ID speech using a more context-dependent procedure, where natural or more complete speech samples are utilized.
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