Title page for ETD etd-4828202239721111

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author McCartney, Jason
Author's Email Address jmccartn@vt.edu
URN etd-4828202239721111
Title Four-Month-Olds Do Not Prefer but Can discriminate Infant Directed and Adult directed Pitch Contours
Degree Master of Science
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hauenstein, Neil M. A.
Lickliter, Robert E.
Cooper, Robin K. Panneton Committee Chair
  • Preference
  • Infancy
  • Discrimination
  • Pitch Contours
  • Infant Directed Speech
Date of Defense 1997-04-14
Availability unrestricted

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the

role of pitch contours in directing infant attention to adult

speech. Several studies have shown that infants from a few

days old to 9 months of age prefer infant-directed (ID)

over adult-directed (AD) speech. Moreover, 4-month-olds

have been shown to prefer pitch contours that simulate ID

speech, suggesting that the exaggerated pitch contours are

necessary for infant attention. The current study

investigated this attentional preference utilizing ID and AD

pitch contours in a fixation-based preference procedure.

Results from the first experiment failed to show a similar

preference for the ID pitch contours. Because a lack of

preference could have been due to a failure to discriminate,

a habituation study was also conducted. The results from

the second experiment showed that 4-month-olds can

discriminate the ID and AD pitch contours. From these

results, it is argued that the pitch contour may be but one of

many possible prosodic characteristics that attract infant

attention and this attention may occur only within a

language context. It is suggested that future studies

investigate ID speech using a more context-dependent

procedure, where natural or more complete speech

samples are utilized.

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