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Callier Center for Communication Disorders

Infant Learning Project

The Infant Learning Project examines preverbal infants’ perception of social-communicative signals and other stimuli relevant for early communicative and language development. Current research examines factors affecting young infants’ discrimination of prosodic properties of infant-directed speech that signify different communicative intentions of a speaker.

This work has shown that infants categorize infant-directed speech utterances produced in different interactional contexts (e.g., comforting vs. approving) at six months of age, but that four-month-olds distinguish approving and comforting signals only when a face is present while hearing the speech.

We are also studying young infants’ categorization of different facial emotions and how facial motion affects infants’ perception of emotional expressions. We have found that 10-month-olds, but not 6-month-olds, categorize moving, happy, and disgusted facial expressions, and we are now studying factors that contribute to this age effect.

Current students


Dr. Melanie Spence (curriculum vitae)
Callier Center for Communication Disorders
811 Synergy Park Blvd
Richardson, TX 75080
(972) 883-3649 office
(972) 883-3622 fax
Infant Learning Research Laboratory Web site

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Callier Center Richardson.

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  • Categorization of infant-directed speech by young infants.
  • Categorization of dynamic facial expressions by young infants.
  • Infants’ discrimination of other-race and same-race faces.

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Current Students

Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychological Sciences
Kate Shepard

Human Development and Early Childhood Disorders Master’s Program
Kaia Wakimaya

Psychological Sciences Master’s Program
Lindsey Collins
Sarah Salomon

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Dr. Kristin Atchison
Dr. Karen Thierry
Dr. Emily Touchstone

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Thierry, K. L., Lamb, M. E., Pipe, M. -E., & Spence, M. J. (2009). The flexibility of source-monitoring training: Reducing young children’s source confusions. Applied Cognitive Psychology. Published online in Wiley InterScience. ( DOI:10.1002/acp.1574.

Jerger, S., Damian, M., Spence, M. J., Tye-Murray, N., Abdi, H. (2009). Developmental shifts in children's sensitivity to visual speech: A new multimodal picture word task. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102, 40-59.

Jerger, S., Damian, M., Tye-Murray, N., Dougherty, M., Mehta, J. and Spence, M. J. (2006). Effects of childhood hearing loss on organization of semantic memory: Typicality and relatedness, Ear and Hearing, 27, 686-702.

Thierry, K. L. and Spence, M. J. (2004). Children’s memory and suggestibility for a real-life and video event. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 297-309.

Spence, M. J. and Moore, D. (2003). Categorization of infant-directed speech: Development from 4 to 6 months. Developmental Psychobiology, 42, 97-109.

Roark, D. A., Barrett, S. E., Spence, M. J., Abdi, H. and O’Toole, A. J. (2003). Psychological and neural perspectives on the role of motion in face recognition. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 2 (1), 15-46.

Spence, M. J., Rollins, P. R. and Jerger, S. (2002). Children's recognition of cartoon voices. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, 214-222.

Thierry, K. L. and Spence, M. J. (2002). Source-monitoring training facilitates preschoolers' eyewitness memory performance. Developmental Psychology, 38, 428-437.

Spence, M. J. and Moore, D. S. (2002). Categorization of infant-directed speech. In J. W. Fagen & H. Hayne (Eds.), Advances in Infancy Research (Vol. 2, pp. 261-293). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Thierry, K. L, Spence, M. J. and Memon, A. (2001). Before misinformation is encountered: Source monitoring decreases child witness suggestibility. Journal of Cognition and Development, 2, 1-26.

Thierry, K. L, Spence, M. J. and Memon, A. (2000). Fuzzy Trace Theory and Source Monitoring. In K. Roberts & M. Blades (Eds.), Children’s Source Monitoring (pp. 171-196). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wild, H. H., Barrett, S. E., Spence, M. J., O'Toole, A. J., Cheng, Y. D. and Brooke, J. (2000). Recognition and sex categorization of adults' and children's faces: Examining performance in the absence of sex stereotyped cues. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 77, 269-291.

Van Beveren, T. T., Little, B. B. and Spence, M. J. (2000). Effects of prenatal cocaine-exposure and postnatal environment on child development. American Journal of Human Biology, 12, 417-428.

Moore, D., Spence, M. J. and Katz, G. (1997). Six-month-olds’ categorization of natural infant- directed utterances. Developmental Psychology, 33, 980-989.

Spence, M. J. (1996). Young infants’ long-term auditory memory: Evidence for changes in preference as a function of delay. Developmental Psychobiology, 29, 685-695.

Spence, M. J. and Freeman, M. S. (1996). Newborn infants prefer the maternal low-pass filtered voice, but not the maternal whispered voice. Infant Behavior and Development, 19, 199-212.

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Laboratory Meeting Dates

Announced each semester. Contact Dr. Spence for times.

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