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Durham University



Publication details for Professor Marko Nardini

Thomas, R.L., Nardini, M. & Mareschal, D. (2017). The impact of semantically congruent and incongruent visual information on auditory object recognition across development. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 162: 72-88.

Author(s) from Durham


The ability to use different sensory signals in conjunction confers numerous advantages on perception. Multisensory perception in adults is influenced by factors beyond low-level stimulus properties such as semantic congruency. Sensitivity to semantic relations has been shown to emerge early in development; however, less is known about whether implementation of these associations changes with development or whether development in the representations themselves might modulate their influence. Here, we used a Stroop-like paradigm that requires participants to identify an auditory stimulus while ignoring a visual stimulus. Prior research shows that in adults visual distractors have more impact on processing of auditory objects than vice versa; however, this pattern appears to be inverted early in development. We found that children from 8 years of age (and adults) gain a speed advantage from semantically congruent visual information and are disadvantaged by semantically incongruent visual information. At 6 years of age, children gain a speed advantage for semantically congruent visual information but are not disadvantaged by semantically incongruent visual information (as compared with semantically unrelated visual information). Both children and adults were influenced by associations between auditory and visual stimuli, which they had been exposed to on only 12 occasions during the learning phase of the study. Adults showed a significant speed advantage over children for well-established associations but showed no such advantage for newly acquired pairings. This suggests that the influence of semantic associations on multisensory processing does not change with age but rather these associations become more robust and, in turn, more influential.

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