Auditory–oral matching behavior in newborns


Tricia Striano, Junior Research Group for Cultural Ontogeny, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany; e-mail:


Twenty-five newborn infants were tested for auditory–oral matching behavior when presented with the consonant sound /m/ and the vowel sound /a/ – a precursor behavior to vocal imitation. Auditory–oral matching behavior by the infant was operationally defined as showing the mouth movement appropriate for producing the model sound just heard (mouth opening for /a/ and mouth clutching for /m/), even when the infant produced no sound herself. With this new dependent measure, the current study is the first to show matching behavior to consonant sounds in newborns: infants showed significantly more instances of mouth opening after /a/ models than after /m/ models, and more instances of mouth clutching after /m/ models than after /a/ models. The results are discussed in the context of theories of active intermodal mapping and innate releasing mechanisms.