Children perceive speech onsets by ear and eye*

Susan Jerger, Markus F E Damian, Nancy Tye-Murray, Herve Abdi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
360 Downloads (Pure)


Adults use vision to perceive low-fidelity speech; yet how children acquire this ability is not well understood. The literature indicates that children show reduced sensitivity to visual speech from kindergarten to adolescence. We hypothesized that this pattern reflects the effects of complex tasks and a growth period with harder-to-utilize cognitive resources, not lack of sensitivity. We investigated sensitivity to visual speech in children via the phonological priming produced by low-fidelity (non-intact onset) auditory speech presented audiovisually (see dynamic face articulate consonant/rhyme b/ag; hear non-intact onset/rhyme: –b/ag) vs. auditorily (see still face; hear exactly same auditory input). Audiovisual speech produced greater priming from four to fourteen years, indicating that visual speech filled in the non-intact auditory onsets. The influence of visual speech depended uniquely on phonology and speechreading. Children – like adults – perceive speech onsets multimodally. Findings are critical for incorporating visual speech into developmental theories of speech perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-215
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

Structured keywords

  • Language
  • Cognitive Science
  • Developmental


  • audiovisual speech perception
  • children
  • phonology
  • speechreading
  • picture word task
  • speech perception
  • phonological priming


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