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Full Access Preverbal infants experience sound-shape correspondences

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Preverbal infants experience sound-shape correspondences

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For more content, see Multisensory Research and Spatial Vision.

One of the most important crossmodal associations is between vision and sound, and we know that such bimodal information is of great importance in perceptual learning. Many crossmodal relationships are non-arbitrary or ‘natural’, and a particularly important case is object naming. While many object-name relationships are arbitrary, others are not. The clearest examples are known as onomatopoeia — the cuckoo and the kittiwake are named after the sounds they make. And a striking demonstration that such effects extend beyond onomatopoeic naming of familiar objects concerns shapes. When adults are shown two shapes, one angular and one with rounded contours, and given the words ‘Takete’ and ‘Maluma’ they will invariably associate ‘Takete’ with the angular shape, and ‘Maluma’ with the rounded shape. This effect was first described by Kohler in 1947, and there have been recent demonstrations of the effect with adults and young (3-year-old) children. Several researchers have suggested that these non-arbitrary associations may be of great importance in that they may influence and ‘bootstrap’ the infant’s early language development, particularly the learning of words for objects. If this is so, such associations should be present prior to language acquisition, and we describe three experiments which demonstrate such relationships in preverbal, 3–5-month-old infants, using random shapes, such as those in the figure, and angular and rounded face-like stimuli.

Affiliations: 1: 1School of Psychology, University of Exeter, GB; 2: 2Lancaster University, GB

One of the most important crossmodal associations is between vision and sound, and we know that such bimodal information is of great importance in perceptual learning. Many crossmodal relationships are non-arbitrary or ‘natural’, and a particularly important case is object naming. While many object-name relationships are arbitrary, others are not. The clearest examples are known as onomatopoeia — the cuckoo and the kittiwake are named after the sounds they make. And a striking demonstration that such effects extend beyond onomatopoeic naming of familiar objects concerns shapes. When adults are shown two shapes, one angular and one with rounded contours, and given the words ‘Takete’ and ‘Maluma’ they will invariably associate ‘Takete’ with the angular shape, and ‘Maluma’ with the rounded shape. This effect was first described by Kohler in 1947, and there have been recent demonstrations of the effect with adults and young (3-year-old) children. Several researchers have suggested that these non-arbitrary associations may be of great importance in that they may influence and ‘bootstrap’ the infant’s early language development, particularly the learning of words for objects. If this is so, such associations should be present prior to language acquisition, and we describe three experiments which demonstrate such relationships in preverbal, 3–5-month-old infants, using random shapes, such as those in the figure, and angular and rounded face-like stimuli.

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/content/journals/10.1163/187847612x648332
2012-01-01
2016-12-07

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