Social and Nonsocial Priming Effects on 12- to 15-Month-Olds’ Preferences for Infant-Directed Speech
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In adults, the availability of certain kinds of cues prior to a recognition task facilitates performance (often called “priming”). Studies have found that conceptual and perceptual priming improves neural efficiency and thus shortens response time in adults. In infant research, various visual and auditory/visual events are used as attention getters to orient the infant to a screen and alert them to upcoming information for their detection, discrimination, and/or recognition. However, the influence of attention-getters on infants’ performance has rarely been systematically evaluated, even though these attention cues could be acting as perceptual/conceptual primes. This study investigated the effect of priming on infants’ preferences for infant-directed speech (IDS) compared to adult-directed speech (ADS). IDS, an inherently social event, can be described as a moderator between attention systems and later language development. Thus, if the attentional network is primed in advance of hearing IDS, it is possible that the magnitude of the IDS preference may change. In this study, 20, 12- to 18-month old infants were provided with either a nonsocial or social prime in an infant-controlled, speech preference procedure with both IDS and ADS speech types. The infant’s total looking duration to IDS relative to ADS was compared for the social versus nonsocial prime condition. Results indicated a main effect for speech and overall IDS preference. However, no significant effect of prime was detected. Results are discussed in terms of future directions to investigate social priming of language in infancy.
General Audience Abstract
In infant research, short duration events are used before the task of interest to orient infants to the screen, increase their attention, and prepare them for the following information to come. These events are called “attention getters” in developmental research, and are used internationally as a way to garner infants’ attention before the main test of interest. Labs use different attention getters based on their prior experience of what works best, and these attention getters vary in content (e.g., social, nonsocial), and format (e.g., audio, visual, audiovisual). The effect of the content of the attention getter on infants’ subsequent performance has never previously been studied, although the content could be acting as a prime for the following task. This study investigated the effect of a social, as opposed to nonsocial, attention getter on infants’ subsequent performance on a speech preference task. Infants (N = 20, 12- to 18-month olds) received both infant-directed speech (IDS; or how caregivers speak to their infants, characterized by shorter sentences, slower rate of speech, and exaggerated vowels) and adult-directed speech (ADS; or how adults speak to other adults, characterized by complex grammar, faster rates of speech, and shorter vowel sounds) which were preceded by either a social (woman saying “Hi Baby” in IDS) or nonsocial (swirling target with chimes) attention getter to investigate their preferences for speech type. It was predicted that infants who received a social prime would demonstrate a stronger preference for IDS over ADS relative to infants who received the nonsocial prime. Results indicated a main effect for speech and overall IDS preference. However, no significant effect of attention getter was detected, and the interaction between speech type and attention getter was not significant. Thus, our predicted results were not supported; the content of the attention getter did not attenuate or augment infants’ speech type preferences. Results are discussed in terms of future directions to better detect social priming in infancy.
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