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Audio-Visual, Visuo-Tactile and Audio-Tactile Correspondences in Preschoolers

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Interest in crossmodal correspondences has recently seen a renaissance thanks to numerous studies in human adults. Yet, still very little is known about crossmodal correspondences in children, particularly in sensory pairings other than audition and vision. In the current study, we investigated whether 4–5-year-old children match auditory pitch to the spatial motion of visual objects (audio-visual condition). In addition, we investigated whether this correspondence extends to touch, i.e., whether children also match auditory pitch to the spatial motion of touch (audio-tactile condition) and the spatial motion of visual objects to touch (visuo-tactile condition). In two experiments, two different groups of children were asked to indicate which of two stimuli fitted best with a centrally located third stimulus (Experiment 1), or to report whether two presented stimuli fitted together well (Experiment 2). We found sensitivity to the congruency of all of the sensory pairings only in Experiment 2, suggesting that only under specific circumstances can these correspondences be observed. Our results suggest that pitch–height correspondences for audio-visual and audio-tactile combinations may still be weak in preschool children, and speculate that this could be due to immature linguistic and auditory cues that are still developing at age five.

Affiliations: 1: 2University of Padua, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padua, Italy

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