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Dev Sci. 2018 Mar;21(2). doi: 10.1111/desc.12554. Epub 2017 Apr 26.

Incidental learning in a multisensory environment across childhood.

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Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK.


Multisensory information has been shown to modulate attention in infants and facilitate learning in adults, by enhancing the amodal properties of a stimulus. However, it remains unclear whether this translates to learning in a multisensory environment across middle childhood, and particularly in the case of incidental learning. One hundred and eighty-one children aged between 6 and 10 years participated in this study using a novel Multisensory Attention Learning Task (MALT). Participants were asked to respond to the presence of a target stimulus whilst ignoring distractors. Correct target selection resulted in the movement of the target exemplar to either the upper left or right screen quadrant, according to category membership. Category membership was defined either by visual-only, auditory-only or multisensory information. As early as 6 years of age, children demonstrated greater performance on the incidental categorization task following exposure to multisensory audiovisual cues compared to unisensory information. These findings provide important insight into the use of multisensory information in learning, and particularly on incidental category learning. Implications for the deployment of multisensory learning tasks within education across development will be discussed.

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