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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.

Read more details about the study at NYU’s website, or the Journal of Child Language.