Perception of Audiovisual Rhythm and its Invariance in 4- to 10-Month-Old Infants

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This study investigated the perception of complex audiovisual rhythmic patterns in 4-, 6-, 8-, and 10-month-old human infants. In Experiment 1, we first habituated infants to an event in which an object could be seen and heard bouncing in a rhythmic fashion. We then tested them to determine if they would detect a relative temporal pattern change produced by rearranging the intrapattern intervals. Regardless of age, infants successfully detected the pattern change. In Experiment 2, we asked whether infants also can extract rhythmic pattern invariance amid tempo variations. Thus, we first habituated infants to a particular rhythmic pattern but this time varying in its tempo of presentation across trials. We then administered one test trial in which a novel rhythm was presented at a familiar tempo and another test trial in which a familiar rhythm was presented at a novel tempo. Infants detected both types of changes indicating that they perceived the invariant rhythm and that they did so despite the fact that they also detected the varying tempo. Overall, the findings demonstrate that infants between 4 and 10 months of age can perceive and discriminate complex audiovisual temporal patterns on the basis of relative temporal differences and that they also can learn the invariant nature of such patterns.

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