Studying the effects of background noise on preschool children’s novel word learning using a multi-session paradigm.
Common daily environments often contain background noise that disrupts access to speech. Thus, it is reasonable to suspect that background noise imposes challenges for individuals who are attempting to learn something from the speech input, such as new words. Extant data on the effects of background noise on novel word learning, however, have shown mixed results. One possible reason for this observation is the variability in methodology across studies, including the age of participants, the types of background noise used, and the way that word learning has been quantified. In addition, most studies assess the effect of background noise in a single session, which limits the ability to test the effect of background noise over multiple exposures of the word. The present line of studies aims to add to this body of work by comparing novel word learning of preschool-age children between a multi-session paradigm and a one-day paradigm while controlling for the number of exposures to the novel word. Preschool-age children were chosen for this study because speech input is the sole way that they learn about words in their native language and because they are more susceptible to the negative effects of background noise due to their immature language and cognitive abilities. In this study, children were exposed to two stories presented through a movie, with each story containing four novel CVC words. Children were exposed to both stories, one in quiet and one in the presence of four-talker babble presented at 0 dB signal-to-noise ratio. After each story, receptive word learning was quantified with a four-alternative-forced-choice task, and expressive word learning was quantified by the number of novel labels correctly produced when their corresponding objects were shown to the children. In the first study, eight children were exposed to the two stories once during each experimental session and were required to complete five sessions over the course of two weeks. In the second study, eight children were exposed to each of the stories five times during the first experimental session and once during the second experimental session a few days later. Results suggested that children’s receptive and expressive word learning improved by session for children who participated in the multi-session paradigm versus for children who participated in the one-day paradigm. Greater improvement was observed for the words exposed in quiet. The results and their implications will be further discussed.