A virtual speaker in noisy classroom conditions: supporting or disrupting children's listening comprehension?

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Jens Nirme, Magnus Haake, Viveka Lyberg Åhlander, Jonas Brännström, Birgitta Sahlén
Publication year: 2019
Journal: Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology
Journal acronym: Logoped Phoniatr Vocol
Volume number: 44
Issue number: 2
Start page: 79
End page: 86
ISSN: 1651-2022


Seeing a speaker's face facilitates speech recognition, particularly under noisy conditions. Evidence for how it might affect comprehension of the content of the speech is more sparse. We investigated how children's listening comprehension is affected by multi-talker babble noise, with or without presentation of a digitally animated virtual speaker, and whether successful comprehension is related to performance on a test of executive functioning.
We performed a mixed-design experiment with 55 (34 female) participants (8- to 9-year-olds), recruited from Swedish elementary schools. The children were presented with four different narratives, each in one of four conditions: audio-only presentation in a quiet setting, audio-only presentation in noisy setting, audio-visual presentation in a quiet setting, and audio-visual presentation in a noisy setting. After each narrative, the children answered questions on the content and rated their perceived listening effort. Finally, they performed a test of executive functioning.
We found significantly fewer correct answers to explicit content questions after listening in noise. This negative effect was only mitigated to a marginally significant degree by audio-visual presentation. Strong executive function only predicted more correct answers in quiet settings.
Altogether, our results are inconclusive regarding how seeing a virtual speaker affects listening comprehension. We discuss how methodological adjustments, including modifications to our virtual speaker, can be used to discriminate between possible explanations to our results and contribute to understanding the listening conditions children face in a typical classroom.

Last updated on 2020-31-03 at 05:20