February 3, 2009
Guess who's talking? Tuning the infant speech bias
Developing organisms across the animal kingdom show biases for perceiving and learning about the vocalizations of their conspecifics. Do young humans show similar biases for spoken language? In this talk, I will present evidence from several studies examining the listening preferences of young infants, including newborns. Together these studies will show that young infants are born as selective listeners, but that this selectivity is subject to further rapid tuning in the first few months of life. This pattern of findings is consistent with recent findings in infant face perception, and is suggestive of common developmental principles, such that initial universal processing abilities become tuned to conspecifics. Finally, I will discuss some of the functional consequences of a bias for speech - that it might be useful for figuring out who, or what, is talking.