Almost from birth, infants prefer to attend to human vocalizations associated with speech over many other sounds. However, studies that have focused on infants’ differential attention to speech and singing have failed to show a speech listening bias. The purpose of the study was to investigate infants’ preferential attention to singing and speech presented in audiovisual and auditory mode. Using an infant-controlled preference procedure, 11-month-olds were presented with audiovisual stimuli depicting a woman singing or reciting a song (Experiment 1, audiovisual condition). The results showed that infants attended significantly longer to singing than to speech. In Experiment 2 (visual condition), infants watched the same videos presented with no sound and in Experiment 3 (auditory condition), they listened to the singing and speech stimuli in English and a foreign language. No differences in length of attention to singing and speech were found in either experiment. The results of the study reconcile the seemingly contradicting findings of previous investigations and show that mode of presentation affects infants’ preferential attention to speech and singing. The facilitating effects of facial cues on infants’ processing of speech and singing are discussed.
- Received July 19, 2013.
- Accepted March 8, 2014.
- © 2014 by The Regents of the University of California