Although most studies of language learning take place in quiet laboratory settings, everyday language learning occurs under noisy conditions. The current research investigated the effects of background speech on word learning. Both younger (22- to 24-month-olds; n = 40) and older (28- to 30-month-olds; n = 40) toddlers successfully learned novel label–object pairings when target speech was 10 dB louder than background speech but not when the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) was 5 dB. Toddlers (28- to 30-month-olds; n = 26) successfully learned novel words with a 5-dB SNR when they initially heard the labels embedded in fluent speech without background noise, before they were mapped to objects. The results point to both challenges and protective factors that may impact language learning in complex auditory environments.
© 2016 the Authors
McMillan, Brianna T.M. and Saffran, Jenny R., "Learning in Complex Environments: The Effects of Background Speech on Early Word Learning" (2016). Psychology: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.