Tuned to the signal: The privileged status of speech for young infants

Athena Vouloumanos, Janet F. Werker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Do young infants treat speech as a special signal, compared with structurally similar non-speech sounds? We presented 2- to 7-month-old infants with nonsense speech sounds and complex non-speech analogues. The non-speech analogues retain many of the spectral and temporal properties of the speech signal, including the pitch contour information which is known to be salient to young listeners, and thus provide a stringent test for a potential listening bias for speech. Our results show that infants as young as 2 months of age listened longer to speech sounds. This listening selectivity indicates that early-functioning biases direct infants' attention to speech, granting speech a special status in relation to other sounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-276
Number of pages7
JournalDevelopmental science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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