Development of voice perception is dissociated across gender cues in school-age children.
Children's ability to distinguish speakers' voices continues to develop throughout childhood, yet it remains unclear how children's sensitivity to voice cues, such as differences in speakers' gender, develops over time. This so-called voice gender is primarily characterized by speakers' mean fundamental frequency (F0), related to glottal pulse rate, and vocal-tract length (VTL), related to speakers' size. Here we show that children's acquisition of adult-like performance for discrimination, a lower-order perceptual task, and categorization, a higher-order cognitive task, differs across voice gender cues. Children's discrimination was adult-like around the age of 8 for VTL but still differed from adults at the age of 12 for F0. Children's perceptual weight attributed to F0 for gender categorization was adult-like around the age of 6 but around the age of 10 for VTL. Children's discrimination and weighting of F0 and VTL were only correlated for 4- to 6-year-olds. Hence, children's development of discrimination and weighting of voice gender cues are dissociated, i.e., adult-like performance for F0 and VTL is acquired at different rates and does not seem to be closely related. The different developmental patterns for auditory discrimination and categorization highlight the complexity of the relationship between perceptual and cognitive mechanisms of voice perception.
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) (016.VICI.170.111)