UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Perceptual Narrowing during Infancy: A Comparison of Language and Faces Maurer, Daphne; Werker, Janet


In this paper, we begin with a summary of the evidence for perceptual narrowing for various aspects of language (e.g., vowel and consonant contrasts, tone languages, visual language, sign language) and of faces (e.g., own species, own race). We then consider possible reasons for the apparent differences in the timing of narrowing (e.g., apparently earlier own race than for own species). Throughout we consider whether the evidence fits a model of maintenance/loss or is better characterized as enhancement/attunement to exposed categories. Finally, we consider evidence on the malleability of the timing and its implications for the role of endogenous factors versus learning in controlling when narrowing occurs. Overall, the comparison across domains revealed many similarities but also striking differences which lead to suggestions for future research.

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