For non-believers…


An article for those who still don’t believe humans lose the ability to hear non-native sounds at around 1 year of age.


Distributional learning of speech sound categories is gated by sensitive periods

Rebecca K. Reh, Takao K. Hensch, Janet F. Werker

Cognition 2021


Perceptual attunement is when an infant’s discrimination of non-native phonetic contrasts declines. That is to say, our ability to hear the sounds of languages other than our native langauge or languages collapses, and this occurs around our first birthday. Some people still do not believe it.


Distributional learning of speech sound categories is gated by sensitive periods, is co-authored by Janet Werker, who first demonstrated perceptual attunment in 1984. This latest piece was published in 2021 in a special issue of Cognition.


In the study the authors assessed the timing of the attunement. Using electroencephalography (EEG) they investigated neuronal responses to native phones in older vs young infants. Results showed that brief exposure to a minimal pair is sufficient to alter neuronal responses to subsequent speech sounds at 5-months and 9-months, but not at 12-months. These results are the first to capture a progressive decline in sensitivity to distributional statistics in a native language environment.


This study also demonstrated the efficacy of hearing minimal pairs. It offers more proof of the benefits of HVPT which, by the way, is what we do at



Citation: Rebecca K. Reh, Cognition,

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