Intermodal Perception of Adult and Child Faces and Voices by Infants

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This research investigated the ability of 4- and 7-month-old infants to match unfamiliar, dynamic faces and voices on the basis of age or maturity. In Experiment 1, infants received videotaped trials of an adult and a child of the same gender, side by side, speaking a nursery rhyme in synchrony with one another. The voice to one and then the other face was played in synchrony with the movements of both faces in a random order across 12 trials. On one block of 6 trials a man and a boy were presented, and on the other block a woman and a girl. Results indicated significant matching of the faces and voices at both ages, and the infant's prior experience with children appeared to facilitate matching at 7 months. Further, a visual preference for the children's faces was found. Experiment 2 assessed matching to the same events by 7-month-olds, only with the faces inverted. Results indicated no evidence of matching; however, the visual preference for the children's faces was replicated. Together, the findings suggest that infants are able to detect invariant intermodal relations specifying the age or maturity of a person's face and voice. This matching was most likely based on information that was degraded by inverting the faces, including invariant relations between the sound of the voice and configurational aspects of the face, or between temporal aspects of the voice and the relative motion of facial features.



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