Melanie Spence

Professor and Program Head - Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Tags: Psychological Sciences

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - Experimental Psychology
University of North Carolina at Greensboro - 1984
M.A. - Experimental Psychology
University of North Carolina at Greensboro - 1980
B.A. - Psychology
Emory University - 1978

Research Areas

Research Interests

Current research examines young infants' processing of voices and speech. One specific focus is the study of infants' categorization of infant-directed (ID) utterances that communicate different affective messages (e.g., approving vs. comforting). Other research interests include young children's memory for voices, speech, and faces.

Publications

Shepard, K., Spence, M. J., & Sasson, N. J. (2012). Distinct Facial Characteristics Differentiate Communicative Intent of Infant-Directed Speech. Infant & Child Development, 21(6), 555-578. doi:10.1002/icd.1757 2012 - Publication
Jerger, S., Damian, M., Spence, M. J., Tye-Murray, N., Abdi, H. (2009). Developmental shifts in children's sensitivity to visual speech: A new multimodal picture word task. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102, 40-59. 2009 - Publication
Thierry, K. L., Lamb, M. E., Pipe, M. E., & Spence, M. J. (2009). The flexibility of source-monitoring training: Reducing young children's source confusions. Applied Cognitive Psychology. Published online in Wiley InterScience. (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/acp.1574. 2009 - Publication
Touchstone, E. W., Spence, M. J., & Atchison, K. K. (2008), Infants categorization of dynamic emotional expressions: Changes from 6 to 10 months. Poster presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Vancouver, BC. 2008 - Publication
Atchison, K. K., Spence, M. J., & Touchstone, E. W. (2008). The impact of faces on infants categorization of infant-directed speech. In M. Goldstein (Chair), New functions of Infant- directed speech: Evidence from word learning and categorization. Symposium conducted the International Conference on Infant Studies, Vancouver, BC. 2008 - Publication
Atchison, K. K. & Spence, M. J. (2007). Four-month-old infants' categorization of infant-directed speech when viewing female, male, and scrambled faces. Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, MA. 2007 - Publication
Touchstone, E. W. & Spence, M. J. (2006). Infants categorization of dynamic faces: Comparing repeated and fixed trials procedures. Poster presented at the Association for Psychological Sciences Meeting, NY, NY. 2006 - Publication
Kuhlman-Atchison, K. & Spence, M. J. (2006). The influence of social context on 4-month-olds categorization of infant-directed speech. Poster presented at the Society for Human Development Research, Fort Worth, TX. 2006 - Publication
Spence, M. J. & Touchstone, E. W. (2006). Infants attention to visual and auditory stimuli. Poster presented at the Association for Psychological Sciences Meeting, NY, NY. 2006 - Publication
Jerger, S., Damian, M., Tye-Murray, N., Dougherty, M., Mehta, J., & Spence, M. J. (2006). Effects of childhood hearing loss on organization of semantic memory: Typicality and relatedness, Ear and Hearing, 27, 686-702. 2006 - Publication

Appointments

Professor
The University of Texas at Dallas [2006–Present]
Program Head
The University of Texas at Dallas [2005–Present]
Associate Professor of Psychology
The University of Texas at Dallas [1996–2005]
Assistant Professor of Psychology
The University of Texas at Dallas [1989–1996]
Visiting Assistant Professor
The University of Texas at Dallas [1988–1989]
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham [1986–1987]

Projects

Children's memory and suggestibility for a real-life and video event
2002–2002 Thierry, K. L, & Spence, M. J., Poster accepted for presentation at the American Psychology-Law Society, Austin, TX.
Effects of voice familiarity on four-month-old infants' abilities to categorize
2004–2004 Sokolsky, J. F. & Spence, M. J., Poster presented at Llano Estacado Psychology Conference, Lubbock, TX.
The influence of social context on 4-month-olds' categorization of infant-directed speech
2006–2006 Kuhlman-Atchison, K. & Spence, M. J., Poster presented at the Society for Human Development Research, Fort Worth, TX.
Source monitoring facilitates preschoolers' memory performance
2001–2001 Thierry, K. L. & Spence, M. J., Paper presented at Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MN.
The impact of faces on infants' categorization of infant-directed speech
2008–2008 Atchison, K. K., Spence, M. J., & Touchstone, E. W., In M. Goldstein (Chair), New functions of Infant-directed speech: Evidence from word learning and categorization. Symposium conducted at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Vancouver, BC.

Additional Information

Personal Statement

My recent research program has examined infants' processing of speech and visual stimuli during the first 6 postnatal months. Studies examining young infants' long-term memory for a running speech passage have shown that 6-week-old infants remember a repeatedly experienced nursery rhyme and discriminate it from a novel nursery rhyme for at least 3 days (Spence, 1996). The ability to encode and retain linguistic information is an important prerequisite for the acquisition of a lexicon. Another series of studies conducted in collaboration with David Moore, PhD (Pitzer College) has examined infants' ability to perceive and discriminate the prosodic properties of speech that signify different communicative intentions of a speaker. This work has shown that infants categorize infant-directed speech utterances produced in different interactional contexts (e.g., comforting vs. approving) at 6 months of age (Moore, Spence, & Katz, 1997). Four-month-olds categorize these infant-directed utterances when heard in the presence of a face (Spence, Chuang, & Sokolsky, 2004), but not when viewing a checkerboard pattern (Spence & Moore, 2002; Spence & Moore, 2003). Current studies are exploring factors that influence categorization of infant-directed speech by 4-month-old infants as well as young infants' categorization of facial emotions when shown moving facial expressions.

A second related area of my research has examined the effects of infants' linguistic experiences on their processing of speech and voices during the perinatal period. This work has provided evidence that maternal speech is perceived by fetuses during the last month of gestation (DeCasper & Spence, 1986) and that human newborns' perception of a specific voice is affected by their previous experience with that voice (Spence & DeCasper, 1987). More recently, my research in this area has demonstrated that newborns' recognition of the maternal voice is dependent on the low-frequency acoustic properties of voices that are available in the prenatal environment, but that high-frequency vocal information that is experienced only postnatally does not support infants' recognition of the maternal voice (Spence & Freeman, 1996). The results of this perinatal research reveal that prenatal experience influences infants' responsiveness to speech and voices, and suggest that these early experiences may provide a foundation for subsequent language acquisition.

Recent research activities also include studies of perceptual and memory development of preschool children. A series of studies examining 3- to 6-year-old children's event memory and the relationship between source monitoring, memory, and suggestibility have been conducted with Karen Thierry, Ph.D. (Rutgers University). These studies have shown that young children's susceptibility to misleading information can be decreased with source monitoring training tasks (Thierry, Spence, & Memon, 2001; Thierry & Spence, 2002). Additionally, collaboration with Susan Jerger, PhD (UTD) has examined auditory processing skills of adults and children ranging from 3 to 16 years of age (Jerger, Pearson, & Spence, 1999; Spence, Rollins, & Jerger, 2002). Research with Drs. Alice O'Toole (UTD) and Susan Barrett (LeHigh University) has examined young children's recognition and gender categorization of faces (Wild et al., 2000).

News Articles

Conference to Emphasize Undergraduate Psychology Research
Undergraduate psychology majors will get a chance to display their research accomplishments at an upcoming conference sponsored by UT Dallas and other area universities.

The North Texas Undergraduate Psychology Conference will take place on UT Dallas’ main campus in Richardson, but it represents a joint effort by psychology departments at Southern Methodist University, Texas Woman’s University and The University of Texas at Arlington, as well as UT Dallas. The conference was funded in part by a grant from Psi Chi, the international psychology honor society, to UT Dallas’ newly established chapter.

Funding

Mother-Infant Vocal Interaction and Infants' Comprehension of Vocal and Facial Emotional Expressions
$20,000 - Timberlawn Psychiatric Foundation [2010–2012]
Infants' comprehension of affect in infant-directed speech: Does the melody convey the message?
$17,515 - Timberlawn Psychiatric Research Foundation Grant [2002–2004]
Human Development Laboratories: Funding for equipment in new School of Human Development Research and Clinical Building
$150,000 - University of Texas System Permanent University Fund [2001–2001]
Callier Scholar Award: Callier Center for Communication Disorders
$5000 - School of Human Development [2000–2001]
Research & Assessment of Infant Auditory Perception
$10,876 - Callier Excellence in Education Fund [1999–2001]