Contrasting behavioral looking procedures

a case study on infant speech segmentation

Caroline Junge*, Emma Everaert, Lyan Porto, Paula Fikkert, Maartje de Klerk, Brigitta Keij, Titia Benders

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper compared three different procedures common in infant speech perception research: a headturn preference procedure (HPP) and a central-fixation (CF) procedure with either automated eye-tracking (CF-ET) or manual coding (CF-M). In theory, such procedures all measure the same underlying speech perception and learning mechanisms and the choice between them should ideally be irrelevant in unveiling infant preference. However, the ManyBabies study (ManyBabies Consortium, 2019), a cross-laboratory collaboration on infants’ preference for child-directed speech, revealed that choice of procedure can modulate effect sizes. Here we examined whether procedure also modulates preference in paradigms that add a learning phase prior to test: a speech segmentation paradigm. Such paradigms are particularly important for studying the learning mechanisms infants can employ for language acquisition. We carried out the same familiarization-then-test experiment with the three different procedures (32 unique infants per procedure). Procedures were compared on various factors, such as overall effect, average looking time and drop-out rate. The key observations are that the HPP yielded a larger familiarity preference, but also reported larger drop-out rates. This raises questions about the generalizability of results. We argue that more collaborative research into different procedures in infant preference experiments is required in order to interpret the variation in infant preferences more accurately.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101448
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Early online date25 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • infant preference
  • central fixation
  • headturn preference procedure
  • speech segmentation ability
  • familiarity response

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