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Child Dev. 1990 Oct;61(5):1584-95.

Preference for infant-directed speech in the first month after birth.

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Department of Psychology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24061.


2 experiments examined behavioral preferences for infant-directed (ID) speech over adult-directed (AD) speech in young infants. Using a modification of the visual-fixation-based auditory-preference procedure, Experiments 1 and 2 examined whether 12 1-month-old and 16 2-day-old infants looked longer at a visual stimulus when looking produced ID as opposed to AD speech. The results showed that both 1-month-olds and newborns preferred ID over AD speech. Although the absolute magnitude of the ID speech preference was significantly greater, with the older infants showing longer looking durations than the younger infants, subsequent analyses showed no significant difference in the relative magnitude of this effect. Differences in overall looking times between the 2 groups apparently reflect task variables rather than differences in speech processing. These results suggest that infants' preference for the exaggerated prosodic features of ID speech is present from birth and may not depend on any specific postnatal experience. However, the possible role of prenatal auditory experience with speech is considered.

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