Even nine-month-old infants can distinguish between speech and non-speech sounds in both humans and animals, a study says.
“Our results show that speech perception of infants is resilient and flexible. This means that our recognition of speech is more refined at an earlier age than we’d thought,” says Athena Vouloumanos, assistant professor of psychology at New York University, who led the study.
It is well-known that adults’ speech perception is fine-tuned and they can detect speech among a range of ambiguous sounds. But much less is known about the capability of infants to make similar assessments, the journal Developmental Psychology reports. In order to gauge the aptitude to perceive speech at any early age, the researchers examined the responses of infants, approximately nine months in age, to recorded human and parrot speech and non-speech sounds.
The results showed that infants listened longer to human speech compared to human non-speech sounds regardless of the visual stimulus, revealing their ability to recognise human speech independent of the context.
“Parrot speech is unlike human speech, so the results show infants have the ability to detect different types of speech, even if they need visual cues to assist in this process,” Vouloumanos said.