Perceptual Development: Amodal Perception

In order to be a research assistant in the Infant Development Lab I volunteer at, I have to read articles written by the lab director and summarize them. Studies and concepts discussed are usually very neat (my personal favorite is the ventriloquist effect). Hopefully my summaries don’t come across as too choppy. Here’s one I wrote for amodal perception:

Amodal perception is perception of information that is redundant across multiple senses, and it includes changes in three types of stimulation: time, space and intensity. Because all events occur across time and space, all events have amodal information. For example, speech provides changes in audiovisual synchrony, tempo, rhythm and intonation that are common facial movements and vocal sounds. Self-motion produces information from muscles and joints, and that information is synchronized and shares temporal and intensity changes with the sight of self-motion. Amodal has also been used to refer to perception in the absence of direction information from one particular sense modality.

The concept of amodal perception dates back to more than 2,000 years ago. Since then, philosophers have proposed that sensations have to be interpreted across the senses before a person could perceive meaningful objects and events. A more three-dimensional approach was created by developmental psychologist when they stated the process was developed gradually through experience with objects. Gibson later proposed that different forms of sensory stimulation were not a problem for perception, but rather necessary for perceiving unitary objects and events – our senses work together as a unified perceptual system to pick up information that is common among the senses.

Amodal information is highly salient to humans and animals, especially during early development. Development of some skills depend on the detection of amodal information, such as being able to detect temporal synchrony, rhythm and tempo, as well as being able to detect emotion. Amodal information simplifies and organizes incoming sensory stimulation, which allows us to perceive unitary, multimodal events.

Bahrick, L.E. (2009). Perceptual development: Amodal perception. Encyclopedia of Perception, 1, 44-46.

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