A step forward. Bayesian hierarchical modelling as a tool in assessment of individual discrimination performance


Individual assessment of infants’ speech discrimination is of great value for studies of language development that seek to relate early and later skills, as well as for clinical work. The present study explored the applicability of the hybrid visual fixation paradigm (Houston et al., 2007) and the associated statistical analysis approach to assess individual discrimination of a native vowel contrast, /a:/ - /e:/, in Dutch 6 to 10-month-old infants. Houston et al. found that 80% (810) of the 9-month-old infants successfully discriminated the contrast between pseudowords boodup-seepug. Using the same approach, we found that 12% (14117) of the infants in our sample discriminated the highly salient /a:/ -/e:/ contrast. This percentage was reduced to 3% (3117) when we corrected for multiple testing. Bayesian hierarchical modeling indicated that 50% of the infants showed evidence of discrimination. Advantages of Bayesian hierarchical modeling are that 1) there is no need for a correction for multiple testing and 2) better estimates at the individual level are obtained. Thus, individual speech discrimination can be more accurately assessed using state of the art statistical approaches.

Infant Behavior and Development. 57
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