Intermodal Perception

More notes/summaries from lab:

Shared confusion and interest relating to the specificity of the different senses and the overlap between them allowed scientists to create different proposals for understanding how perception works. It was proposed that different forms of sensory information do not disrupt perception, but rather they’re vital to intermodal perception (stimulation that is simultaneously present for more than one sense). Amodal information, an invariant for intermodal perception, is information that is not attached to a specific particular sense modality and is shared across more than one sense; it’s redundant across the different senses due to temporal, spatial, and intensity patterns. When amodal information is available through different senses at the same time, it’s called intersensory redundancy. Modality specific information is information that is only perceived by one sense (i.e. color can only be perceived visually).

We can only pay attention to selective, small portion of stimulation available, as irrelevant information stays in the background. Our senses take in redundant information about events and objects in a way that it’s not excessive. This salient intersensory redundancy is fundamental for the development of perception in infancy. Sensitivity to redundancy across the different senses promotes attention to unified events when presented with competing sounds and movements. As we grow older, the sensory information goes through finer and finer levels of stimulation (i.e. general perception of a person walking to ultimately their appearance). Perceptual narrowing occurs with progressive improvements in perceptual discrimination; it allows people to focus on relevant aspects of stimulation and ignore those that are irrelevant. As time goes on, perceptual development focuses on becoming increasingly more specific.

Infants are sensitive to audiovisual information and can detect the temporal synchrony between sights and sounds of an object’s impact, among other things. Temporal synchrony is thought to be the “glue” that binds information across auditory and visual stimulation. Amodal relations such as temporal synchrony, rhythm, and tempo are the basis for selecting unitary sights and sounds; it eventually allows processing of temporal microstructure and modality-specific properties such as color, pattern, and pitch. The intersensory redundancy hypothesis suggests that redundant information is highly salient and attracts amodal, redundantly specified properties of information.

Infants are able to recognize other people’s emotional expressions and use them as information about external events. This skill, called social referencing, can allow an infant to discriminate an adult’s emotional expression in order to connecting it the adult’s feelings towards a situation or object. Audiovisual synchrony can help in word-learning and in selective attention.

Bahrick, L. E. & Hollich, G. (2008). Intermodal perception. Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development, 2, 164 – 176.

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