Perceptual Learning of Intonation Contour Categories in Adults and 9‐ to 11‐Year‐Old Children: Adults Are More Narrow‐Minded

Cognitive Science 41 (2):383-415 (2017)
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We report on rapid perceptual learning of intonation contour categories in adults and 9- to 11-year-old children. Intonation contours are temporally extended patterns, whose perception requires temporal integration and therefore poses significant working memory challenges. Both children and adults form relatively abstract representations of intonation contours: Previously encountered and novel exemplars are categorized together equally often, as long as distance from the prototype is controlled. However, age-related differences in categorization performance also exist. Given the same experience, adults form narrower categories than children. In addition, adults pay more attention to the end of the contour, while children appear to pay equal attention to the beginning and the end. The age range we examine appears to capture the tail-end of the developmental trajectory for learning intonation contour categories: There is a continuous effect of age on category breadth within the child group, but the oldest children are adult-like.



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