Whether in a noisy daycare center, home, or classroom, many of the environments children are exposed to are, undoubtedly, not acoustically ideal for speech processing. Yet, somehow, these toddlers are still able to acquire vocabularies consisting of hundreds of words. The current study explores the effect of background speech noise on children's early word learning (specifically, their ability to map a label onto an object). Three groups of children aged 32–36 months were taught two new words either in quiet, or in the presence of multi-talker babble at a +5 or 0 dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). They were then tested on their learning of these new word-to-object mappings. Children showed similar accuracy in all three conditions, suggesting that even at a 0 dB SNR, children were successfully able to learn new words.
This project was an undergraduate honors thesis for the first author. We particularly thank Dr. Yasmeen Faroqi Shah for serving on the committee and providing helpful feedback, and Giovanna Morini for assistance in experimental setup and many helpful discussions. We also thank Elizabeth Johnson's lab and George Hollich for the various coding and analysis programs used here. We thank the following for assistance in scheduling, testing, and coding participants: Mikayla Abrams, Faraz Ahsan, Jaclyn Albalah, Alison Arnold, Amelie Bail, Catherine Bender, Taryn Bipat, Devon Brunson, Alyssa Cook, Jennifer Coon, Sara Dougherty, Catherine Eaton, Lauren Evans, Andrea Fisher, Arielle Gandee, Sean Hendricks, Mina Javid, Esther Kim, Penina Kozovsky, Stephanie Lee, Perri Lieberman, Rachel Lieberman, Kelly McPherson, Vidda Moussavi, Molly Nasuta, Maura O'Fallon, Amanda Pasquarella, Allie Rodriguez, Rebecca Sherman, Katie Shniderman, Veronica Son, Ashley Thomas, Krista Voelmle, Kimmie Wilson, and Catherine Wu. This work was funded by a Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research Summer Fellowship, and by NSF grant 0642294 to UMD.
I. INTRODUCTION II. METHODS A. Participants B. Materials C. Procedure D. Coding III. RESULTS IV. DISCUSSION