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Speaking versus Singing: Can Infants Tell Them Apart?

Speaking versus Singing: Can Infants Tell Them Apart?

Name:Meyha Chhatwal

School/Affiliation:University of Toronto Mississauga

Co-Authors:Dr. Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden

Virtual or In-person:In-person


When interacting with infants, adult caregivers often use multiple communication modalities, including speech and song. While it is firmly understood that adults from around the world can usually distinguish between speech and song rather effortlessly, the same cannot necessarily be said for infants. The very few studies that have examined whether infants can tell speech apart from song have produced findings that are largely conflicting and inconclusive. Several studies show evidence that infants prefer infant-directed (ID) song over ID speech, while others show no preference for song over speech. Further, infants generally prefer happier-sounding stimuli irrespective of whether it is spoken or sung. In our study, we will discern infants’ ability to discriminate speech from song using a modified Stimulus Alternating Preference Procedure (SAPP), developed by Best and Jones (1998). We will examine infants of two age groups: under 6 months of age, and over 6 months of age. We predict that younger infants, aged less than 6 months, will not differentiate between speech and song while infants older than 6 months will, suggesting the emergence of domain-specific processing. This work is important for furthering our understanding of the developmental trajectory for the cognitive and perceptual processes behind music and language perception in infants.

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