Undergraduate Honours Theses
Infant listeners have very sophisticated auditory processing skills. In the music domain, infants as young as 6-months of age can recognize familiar and novel melodies (e.g., Trainor, Wu, & Tsang, 2004), and in the speech domain 8-month-old infants can use the statistical frequency of syllables to recognize familiar and novel nonsense words (e.g., Saffran, Aslin, & Newport, 1996). Though infants can process music and speech information when presented separately, there has been little research to date on whether infants can process information from both streams simultaneously. Auditory streams such as lullabies often contain both a melody and lyrics, but can infants process both at once? To test this, the present study familiarized 8-month-old infants to one of two melodies with nonsense lyrics. The lyrics were syllables arranged in a non-random order to form nonsense “words”. Infants were then tested using a standard head-turn preference paradigm to determine whether they could recognize the melody or the “words”. No significant main effects or interactions were found, but several interactions approached significance. The trends of this study suggest that infant listeners may have the cognitive resources necessary to process both music and speech information simultaneously. The trends also suggest that adding a lyrical component to a melody appears to facilitate memory for the melody. Possible reasons for these findings as well as implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.