Influence of Eye Gaze on Spoken Word Processing: An ERP Study With Infants

Authors


  • We are grateful to the infants and their families who participated, and to the Universitätsfrauenklinik and the Klinikum St. Georg in Leipzig for assistance with infants’ recruitment. E.P. was funded by a Humboldt Research Fellowship and by a grant from Calabria Region, Italy. Many thanks to Tobias Grossmann, Thomas C. Gunter, Stefanie Hoehl, and Maren Schmidt-Kassow for comments and suggestions, and to Anna Andreas, Daniela Danz, Maria Poessel, Maria Schmidt, and Irka Wetzig for testing.

concerning this article should be addressed to Eugenio Parise, Cognitive Development Center, Central European University, Hattyú utca 14, 1015 Budapest, Hungary. Electronic mail may be sent to eugenioparise@tiscali.it.

Abstract

Eye gaze is an important communicative signal, both as mutual eye contact and as referential gaze to objects. To examine whether attention to speech versus nonspeech stimuli in 4- to 5-month-olds (= 15) varies as a function of eye gaze, event-related brain potentials were used. Faces with mutual or averted gaze were presented in combination with forward- or backward-spoken words. Infants rapidly processed gaze and spoken words in combination. A late Slow Wave suggests an interaction of the 2 factors, separating backward-spoken word + direct gaze from all other conditions. An additional experiment (= 15) extended the results to referential gaze. The current findings suggest that interactions between visual and auditory cues are present early in infancy.

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