Learning to differentiate individuals by their voices: Infants' individuation of native- and foreign-species voices
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The ability to discriminate and identify people by their voice is important for social interaction in humans. In early development, learning to discriminate important differences in a number of socially relevant stimuli, such as phonemes and faces, has been shown to follow a common pattern of experience-driven perceptual narrowing, where the discrimination of native stimuli improves, while the discrimination of foreign stimuli worsens. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether similar perceptual narrowing occurs for discriminating individuals by voice. We tested the ability of English-speaking adults and English-learning 6- and 12-month-olds to discriminate either native-species (human) or foreign-species (rhesus monkey [Macaca mulatta]) individuals by their vocalizations. Between 6 and 12 months of age, the ability to discriminate monkey voices decreased significantly and there was a non-significant trend for improved ability to discriminate human voices. The results support the hypothesis of experience-driven perceptual narrowing for voice individuation during the first year after birth.
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