Infants' perception of rhythm and tempo in unimodal and multimodal stimulation: a developmental test of the intersensory redundancy hypothesis

Lorraine E Bahrick, Robert Lickliter
Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience 2004, 4 (2): 137-47
Research has demonstrated that young infants can detect a change in the tempo and the rhythm of an event when they experience the event bimodally (audiovisually), but not when they experience it unimodally (acoustically or visually). According to Bahrick and Lickliter (2000, 2002), intersensory redundancy available in bimodal, but not in unimodal, stimulation directs attention to the amodal properties of events in early development. Later in development, as infants become more experienced perceivers, attention becomes more flexible and can be directed toward amodal properties in unimodal and bimodal stimulation. The present study tested this developmental hypothesis by assessing the ability of older, more perceptually experienced infants to discriminate the tempo or rhythm of an event, using procedures identical to those in prior studies. The results indicated that older infants can detect a change in the rhythm and the tempo of an event following both bimodal (audiovisual) and unimodal (visual) stimulation. These results provide further support for the intersensory redundancy hypothesis and are consistent with a pattern of increasing specificity in perceptual development.

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