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Cross-modal perception in infants Essay

Cross-modal perception refers to the ability of the human mind to process information using two or more modalities. Cognitive psychology has posited that the brain is hard-wired to process external information and stimuli and then perceive it as meaningful. For example, blinds can actually read using the Braille system which makes use of tactile sensory stimulus and imagery as the shape of the letters are translated into words and sentences. Studies on cross-modal perception have shown that even infants are able to distinguish shape and sound through bimodal experiences.

The findings on the study of cross-modal perception in very young infants have helped in the study of language formation and cognitive development in humans as it demonstrates that even at a few weeks from birth, infants are able to process the information in their environment. Object perception in infants is said to be the earliest form of interaction of the infant to his/her external world. It may be for a limited period and it may be too spontaneous that we think that it does not actually occur.

For example, an infant has been observed to grasp anything that comes within his/her field of view, but is it really just a reflex or is there something in that grasping action that facilitates learning and other mental functioning. Cross-modal perception experiments through the use of creatively designed stimuli and recording equipments have helped shed light to the issue of infant perception. Although research on cross-modal perception has been a consistent topic of interest in cognitive psychology, still there is much to know about how language and mental functioning develop.

At present language development is still base don theories that have not been borne out by research. Cross-modal perception studies might give the field the evidence to which language formation theories could be tested against. The information gained from these studies would enrich man’s understanding of the development of cognitive functioning and processes. As well as contribute to the identification of the specific process in which man is able to learn and use previous experiences as basis for further learning.

Background of the study Cognitive psychologists and theorists believe that children come into this world equipped with a set of mental processes and functions that enable infants to develop language and other cognitive abilities. Cross-modal researches have been geared towards identifying the manner in which infants perceive objects though sensory stimuli. The presentation of objects using two or three sensory modalities has been the distinguishing mark of cross-modal perception studies.

Previous studies have used sophisticated experimental conditions and equipments to detect minute movements that would allow the researcher to observe how the infants respond to the stimulus. Two previous researches using cross-modal perception in infants are discussed to demonstrate the research experiments and procedures that could be used as basis for the present research. In a study on the bimodal perception of speech in infants by Meltzoff and Kuhl (1982) it was established that infants at 18 to 20 weeks old can be able to associate vowel sounds with the face of the speaker.

In this study, the authors hypothesized that lip reading is a bimodal perception since it involved processing the information from the words through the correct movement of the mouth which the eye perceives. It is bimodal in nature since the individual process both sound and visual cues at the same time. In this experiment, the authors presented the infants with videos of two faces that are mouthing words and an auditory cue matched to one of the face’s words was simultaneously exposed to the infant.

It was assumed that the infant would become fixated far more frequently with the correct pairing of the visual and auditory cues than the incorrect combination. The researchers found that indeed, infants were more fixated on the correct face and sound cue than the incorrect one. The authors did a follow-up experiment wherein the auditory stimuli was altered to remove the tonal specificity of the voice as it was hypothesized that the infant may come to associate the correct pairing of the voice and face not to what has been actually heard and seen.

The second experiment showed that there is indeed a likely relationship between visual perception of faces and the individual’s voice which acts as the identifying marker for the infant. The results showed that infant cognitive development proceeds in a series of associations between intermodal cues and their environment. A study on intermodal matching by human infants conducted by Meltzoff and Borton (1979) was focused on proving the concept that infants are able to correctly identify the visual object to the tactile experience of the object.

In this study, 32 infants from 26 to 33 days old were exposed to two different objects through tactile exposure. The researchers presented the infants with two pacifiers of different shapes. They were given 90 seconds to familiarize with the objects. Since the infants were too young to actually hold and manipulate the objects, the researches used the pacifier and quantified oral manipulation as the tactile experience. After the familiarization session, the infants were presented with a visual cue that showed the two pacifiers.

It was hypothesized that infants would be able to fixate more on the correct picture rather than the incorrect one. The results showed that the infants fixated much longer on the correct object that was exposed to the baby than the other picture. In order to test the results of the first experiment, a second experiment was done using the same procedure but entirely new subjects were used. The results were still consistent with the first experiment, thus it would seem that very young infants are actually equipped with the ability to distinguish one object from the other through the use of their senses.

The presented researches showed that cross-modal research of infants are quite complicated to do and require very close monitoring and control of variables. On the other hand, the supposed fixation, or focusing more on the correct object is at best still an assumption to indicate cognitive functioning but there is actually no concrete evidence of it. Cross-modal researches in infants are actually limited to the use of sensory modalities to introduce the research variable while actual brain activity during perceptual tasks in infants had been slow.

Present Research Hypothesis The present research would like to determine how infants perceive their caregiver’s face from among the many other faces. It has been shown that infants actually are keener on looking at familiar faces than other people but the question of familiarity is something that has not been fully explained. If the infant continuously is exposed to a certain person and interacts with it, then it is likely that he/she forms an attachment to the person but how does the infant know that this is person that he/she must form an attachment with.

The interaction between infant and caregiver has to be rich in sensory modalities, touching, speaking and looking at the infant establishes the infant’s bond and attachment to the caregiver. How a child can quickly become attached to a person or object has been examined through conditioning and learning but is it not possible that some cognitive process is operating at this moment, thus, this study would determine the direction of which attachment theory is used in the study of child development.

It is hypothesized that the more sensory rich the interaction between child and caregiver, the more likely that the infant will form an attachment to the caregiver. Method of the experiment Infants will be paired with 3 caregivers; one will have tactile interaction with the infant without any auditory cues and visual interaction. One of the caregivers will have to provide auditory interaction only and no other interaction while the third caregiver will have to spend the day with the infant to establish the activity of interaction such as tactile and auditory stimuli.

The infant’s responses to the pictures of the caregiver will then be measured as indicating fixation and knowing. The longer the infant looks at the picture indicate that they can identify the caregiver with the most-rich interaction. References Kuhl, P. & Meltzoff, A. (1982). The bimodal perception of speech in infancy. Science, 218:1138-1140. Meltzoff, A. & Borton, M. (1979). Inter-modal matching by human neonates. Nature, 282: 22, 403-404.

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