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Cross-modal matching of audio-visual German and French fluent speech in infancy

Kubicek, C., Hillairet de Boisferon, A., Dupierrix, E., Pascalis, O., Loevenbruck, H., Gervain, J., & Schwarzer, G.

The present study examined when and how the ability to cross-modally match audio-visual fluent speech develops in 4.5-, 6- and 12-month-old German-learning infants. In Experiment 1, 4.5- and 6-month-old infants’ audio-visual matching ability of native (German) and non-native (French) fluent speech was assessed by presenting auditory and visual speech information sequentially, that is, in the absence of temporal synchrony cues. The results showed that 4.5-month-old infants were capable of matching native as well as non-native audio and visual speech stimuli, whereas 6-month-olds perceived the audio-visual correspondence of native language stimuli only. This suggests that intersensory matching narrows for fluent speech between 4.5 and 6 months of age. In Experiment 2, auditory and visual speech information was presented simultaneously, therefore, providing temporal synchrony cues. Here, 6-month-olds were found to match native as well as non-native speech indicating facilitation of temporal synchrony cues on the intersensory perception of non-native fluent speech. Intriguingly, despite the fact that audio and visual stimuli cohered temporally, 12-month-olds matched the non-native language only. Results were discussed with regard to multisensory perceptual narrowing during the first year of life.

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