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J Exp Child Psychol. 2001 Jul;79(3):253-70.

Increasing specificity in perceptual development: infants' detection of nested levels of multimodal stimulation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Florida International University, Miami 33199, USA.


This research assessed the development of infants' sensitivity to two nested amodal temporal relations in audible and visible events. Their detection of global temporal synchrony between visible and audible impacts and internal temporal structure nested within each impact specifying object composition (single versus compound objects) was assessed. Infants of 4, 7, and 11 weeks of age were habituated to a single and a compound object striking a surface and then received test trials depicting a change in synchrony or object composition. Results indicated an interaction between age and condition where sensitivity to synchrony was present by 4 weeks and remained stable across age, whereas sensitivity to composition emerged later, by 7 weeks, and increased dramatically with age. These findings converge with other recent findings to illustrate a pattern of increasing specificity in the development of perception, where infants first detect global and later detect embedded relations. The early sensitivity to global relations may provide an organizational framework for development by focusing infant attention on unitary events, guiding and constraining further exploration, and buffering infants from learning incongruent relations.

Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

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