Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Shannon Pruden

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Bennett Schwartz

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Philip Stoddard

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


perceptual narrowing, prenatal, enrichment, auditory, species-typical preferences, novelty, intersensory redundancy

Date of Defense



The development of species-typical perceptual preferences has been shown to depend on a variety of socially and ecologically derived sensory stimulation during both the pre- and postnatal periods. The prominent mechanism behind the development of these seemingly innate tendencies in young organisms has been hypothesized to be a domain-general pan-sensory selectivity process referred to as perceptual narrowing, whereby regularly experienced sensory stimuli are honed in upon, while simultaneously losing the ability to effectively discriminate between atypical or unfamiliar sensory stimulation. Previous work with precocial birds has been successful in preventing the development of species-typical perceptual preferences by denying the organism typical levels of social and/or self-produced stimulation. The current series of experiments explored the mechanism of perceptual narrowing to assess the malleability of a species-typical auditory preference in avian embryos. By providing a variety of different unimodal and bimodal presentations of a mixed-species vocalizations at the onset of prenatal auditory function, the following project aimed to 1) keep the perceptual window from narrowing, thereby interfering with the development of a species-typical auditory preference, 2) investigate how long differential prenatal stimulation can keep the perceptual window open postnatally, 3) explore how prenatal auditory enrichment effected preferences for novelty, and 4) assess whether prenatal auditory perceptual narrowing is affected by modality specific or amodal stimulus properties during early development. Results indicated that prenatal auditory enrichment significantly interferes with the emergence of a species-typical auditory preference and increases openness to novelty, at least temporarily. After accruing postnatal experience in an environment rich with species-typical auditory and multisensory cues, the effect of prenatal auditory enrichment rapidly was found to rapidly fade. Prenatal auditory enrichment with extraneous non-synchronous light exposure was shown to both keep the perceptual narrowing window open and impede learning in the postnatal environment, following hatching. Results are discussed in light of the role experience plays in perceptual narrowing during the perinatal period.





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