Infant and Child Development

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Volume 21 Issue 3 (May/June 2012), Pages 1-324

Developmental Improvements in Perceptual Restoration: Can Young Children Reconstruct Missing Sounds in Noisy Environments? (pages 287-297)

Young children are frequently exposed to sounds such as speech and music in noisy listening conditions, which have the potential to disrupt their learning. Missing input that is masked by louder sounds can, under the right conditions, be ‘filled in’ by the perceptual system using a process known as perceptual restoration. This experiment compared the ability of 4‐ to 6‐year‐old children, 9‐ to 11‐year‐old children and adults to complete a melody identification task using perceptual restoration. Melodies were presented either intact (complete input), with noise‐filled gaps (partial input; perceptual restoration can occur) or with silence‐filled gaps (partial input; perceptual restoration cannot occur). All age groups could use perceptual restoration to help them interpret partial input, yet perception was the most detrimentally affected by the presentation of partial input for the youngest children. This implies that they might have more difficulty perceiving sounds in noisy environments than older children or adults. Young children had particular difficulty using partial input for identification under conditions where perceptual restoration could not occur. These findings suggest that perceptual restoration is a crucial mechanism in young children, where processes that fill in missing sensory input represent an important part of the way meaning is extracted from a complex sensory world. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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