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Impact of language on development of auditory-visual speech perception


Address for correspondence: Kaoru Sekiyama, Division of Cognitive Psychology, Faculty of Letters, Kumamoto University, 2-40-1 Kurokami, Kumamoto, 860-8555, Japan; e-mail:


The McGurk effect paradigm was used to examine the developmental onset of inter-language differences between Japanese and English in auditory-visual speech perception. Participants were asked to identify syllables in audiovisual (with congruent or discrepant auditory and visual components), audio-only, and video-only presentations at various signal-to-noise levels. In Experiment 1 with two groups of adults, native speakers of Japanese and native speakers of English, the results on both percent visually influenced responses and reaction time supported previous reports of a weaker visual influence for Japanese participants. In Experiment 2, an additional three age groups (6, 8, and 11 years) in each language group were tested. The results showed that the degree of visual influence was low and equivalent for Japanese and English language 6-year-olds, and increased over age for English language participants, especially between 6 and 8 years, but remained the same for Japanese participants. This may be related to the fact that English language adults and older children processed visual speech information relatively faster than auditory information whereas no such inter-modal differences were found in the Japanese participants’ reaction times.