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ERIC Number: EJ1200141
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019-Jan
Pages: 8
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
Infants' Selective Use of Reliable Cues in Multidimensional Language Input
Potter, Christine E.; Lew-Williams, Casey
Developmental Psychology, v55 n1 p1-8 Jan 2019
Learning always happens from input that contains multiple structures and multiple sources of variability. Though infants possess learning mechanisms to locate structure in the world, lab-based experiments have rarely probed how infants contend with input that contains many different structures and cues. Two experiments explored infants' use of two naturally occurring sources of variability--different sounds and different people--to detect regularities in language. Monolingual infants (9-10 months) heard a male and female talker produce two different speech streams, one of which followed a deterministic pattern (e.g., AAB, "le-le-di") and one of which did not. For half of the infants, each speaker produced only one of the streams; for the other half of the infants, each speaker produced 50% of each stream. In Experiment 1, each stream consisted of distinct sounds, and infants successfully demonstrated learning regardless of the correspondence between speaker and stream. In Experiment 2, each stream consisted of the same sounds, and infants failed to show learning, even when speakers provided a perfect cue for separating each stream. Thus, monolingual infants can learn in the presence of multiple speech streams, but these experiments suggest that infants may rely more on sound-based rather than speaker-based distinctions when breaking into the structure of incoming information. This selective use of some cues over others highlights infants' ability to adaptively focus on distinctions that are most likely to be useful as they sort through their inherently multidimensional surroundings.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: R03HD079779