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Infants' listening in multitalker environments: effect of the number of background talkers.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Attention, perception & psychophysics
Publication Date
Volume
71
Issue
4
Pages
822–836
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/APP.71.4.822
PMID: 19429961
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Infants are often spoken to in the presence of background sounds, including speech from other talkers. In the present study, we compared 5- and 8.5-month-olds' abilities to recognize their own names in the context of three different types of background speech: that of a single talker, multitalker babble, and that of a single talker played backward. Infants recognized their names at a 10-dB signal-to-noise ratio in the multiple-voice condition but not in the single-voice (nonreversed) condition, a pattern opposite to that of typical adult performance. Infants similarly failed to recognize their names when the background talker's voice was reversed--that is, unintelligible, but with speech-like acoustic properties. These data suggest that infants may have difficulty segregating the components of different speech streams when those streams are acoustically too similar. Alternatively, infants' attention may be drawn to the time-varying acoustic properties associated with a single talker's speech, causing difficulties when a single talker is the competing sound.

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