Familiar voices can improve spoken language processing among school-age children, according to a study by NYU’s Steinhardt School. However, the advantage of hearing a familiar voice only helps children to process and understand words they already know well — not new words that aren’t already in their vocabularies.
Research has already demonstrated this “familiar talker advantage” among adults, describing the ability to accurately (and quickly) process what a person with a familiar voice is saying — even in a crowded room with a lot of background noise. Up to this point, however, little research had been done to see how children process familiar versus unfamiliar voices.
The study revealed that children between ages 7 – 12 could more accurately repeat words spoken by familiar voices, demonstrating that their spoken language processing improved with familiar speakers. Familiarity was not useful for words the children didn’t know.