Familiar voices can improve spoken language processing among school-age children, says a study.
“This study shows that children were able to integrate knowledge of what a person sounds like and use this to their advantage,” said study author Susannah Levi, an assistant professor at the New York University in the US.
“A potential benefit is that when there is background noise and kids are listening to a familiar voice, like a teacher’s, kids use the familiarity to their advantage,” Levi added.
However, the advantage of hearing a familiar voice only helps children to process and understand words they already know well, not new words that are not in their vocabularies, the findings showed.
Children store information about a speaker to retrieve and harness at a later time, similar to what has been found for adult listeners.
Research has shown that when adults are familiar with someone’s voice, they can more accurately – and even more quickly – process and understand what the person is saying.
This concept, known as the familiar talker advantage, comes into play in situations where it is difficult to hear.
The current study explored whether the familiar talker advantage is found in children aged seven to 12.
Forty-one children participated in the study, first listening to a series of words and repeating them to give researchers a baseline for how accurately each child identified words.
The study revealed that children could more accurately repeat the words spoken by familiar voices, demonstrating that their spoken language processing improved with familiar speakers.
The study appeared in the Journal of Child Language.