Developmental shifts in children's sensitivity to visual speech: A new multimodal picture-word task

Susan Jerger, Markus F. Damian, Melanie J. Spence, Nancy Tye-Murray, Herve Abdi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations


This research developed a multimodal picture-word task for assessing the influence of visual speech on phonological processing by 100 children between 4 and 14 years of age. We assessed how manipulation of seemingly to-be-ignored auditory (A) and audiovisual (AV) phonological distractors affected picture naming without participants consciously trying to respond to the manipulation. Results varied in complex ways as a function of age and type and modality of distractors. Results for congruent AV distractors yielded an inverted U-shaped function with a significant influence of visual speech in 4-year-olds and 10- to 14-year-olds but not in 5- to 9-year-olds. In concert with dynamic systems theory, we proposed that the temporary loss of sensitivity to visual speech was reflecting reorganization of relevant knowledge and processing subsystems, particularly phonology. We speculated that reorganization may be associated with (a) formal literacy instruction and (b) developmental changes in multimodal processing and auditory perceptual, linguistic, and cognitive skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-59
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Audiovisual speech perception
  • Dynamic systems theory
  • Multimodal speech processing
  • Phonological processing
  • Picture naming
  • Picture word interference
  • Picture-word task
  • U-shaped developmental function

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