Social and Nonsocial Priming Effects on 12- to 15-Month-Olds’ Preferences for Infant-Directed Speech

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Virginia Tech

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.

priming, infants, IDS, language, attention, attention getter, perception