Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor's Name

Lorraine E. Bahrick

First Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

Third Advisor's Name

Mary J. Levitt

Fourth Advisor's Name

Charles Bigger

Keywords

Selective attention, Intersensory perception, Infant attention

Date of Defense

11-7-2011

Abstract

One of the overarching questions in the field of infant perceptual and cognitive development concerns how selective attention is organized during early development to facilitate learning. The following study examined how infants’ selective attention to properties of social events (i.e., prosody of speech and facial identity) changes in real time as a function of intersensory redundancy (redundant audiovisual, nonredundant unimodal visual) and exploratory time. Intersensory redundancy refers to the spatially coordinated and temporally synchronous occurrence of information across multiple senses. Real time macro- and micro-structural change in infants’ scanning patterns of dynamic faces was also examined.

According to the Intersensory Redundancy Hypothesis, information presented redundantly and in temporal synchrony across two or more senses recruits infants’ selective attention and facilitates perceptual learning of highly salient amodal properties (properties that can be perceived across several sensory modalities such as the prosody of speech) at the expense of less salient modality specific properties. Conversely, information presented to only one sense facilitates infants’ learning of modality specific properties (properties that are specific to a particular sensory modality such as facial features) at the expense of amodal properties (Bahrick & Lickliter, 2000, 2002).

Infants’ selective attention and discrimination of prosody of speech and facial configuration was assessed in a modified visual paired comparison paradigm. In redundant audiovisual stimulation, it was predicted infants would show discrimination of prosody of speech in the early phases of exploration and facial configuration in the later phases of exploration. Conversely, in nonredundant unimodal visual stimulation, it was predicted infants would show discrimination of facial identity in the early phases of exploration and prosody of speech in the later phases of exploration. Results provided support for the first prediction and indicated that following redundant audiovisual exposure, infants showed discrimination of prosody of speech earlier in processing time than discrimination of facial identity. Data from the nonredundant unimodal visual condition provided partial support for the second prediction and indicated that infants showed discrimination of facial identity, but not prosody of speech. The dissertation study contributes to the understanding of the nature of infants’ selective attention and processing of social events across exploratory time.

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