ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

5pSP38. Do 4.5-month-olds' know their names?

Denise R. Mandel

Peter W. Jusczyk

Percept. Develop. Lab., Dept. of Psychol., SUNY at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260

David Pisoni

Indiana Univ., Bloomington, IN 47405

Research has demonstrated that object names are given distinct prosodic status in child-directed speech (Messer, 1981). Yet, the name most likely to attract infants is their own. Using the headturn preference procedure whether 4.5-month-olds prefer to listen to their own names was tested. Twenty-four infants were presented with four names: their own, and three others. Foils were designed to investigate whether infants would false alarm to names with similar prosodic patterns (e.g., stress): One foil matched the stress pattern of the infants' name; the other two followed the opposite pattern. Infants demonstrated significant listening preferences for their own names---even when compared to the foil with the same stress pattern. These findings provide the first evidence that infants as young as 4.5 months recognize their names. The findings also have some potentially important implications for lexical development. Perhaps the structure of infants' early lexicons are influenced by their first lexical entries, i.e., their names. If so, this may explain individual differences often found in early lexical development---infants may be more likely to attend to words in the language environment that share a structural relation to their names. [Work supported by NICHD-NIDCD.]