Information from multiple modalities helps 5-month-olds learn abstract rules

Michael C. Frank, Jonathan A. Slemmer, Gary F. Marcus, Scott P. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By 7 months of age, infants are able to learn rules based on the abstract relationships between stimuli (Marcus et al., 1999), but they are better able to do so when exposed to speech than to some other classes of stimuli. In the current experiments we ask whether multimodal stimulus information will aid younger infants in identifying abstract rules. We habituated 5-month-olds to simple abstract patterns (ABA or ABB) instantiated in coordinated looming visual shapes and speech sounds (Experiment 1), shapes alone (Experiment 2), and speech sounds accompanied by uninformative but coordinated shapes (Experiment 3). Infants showed evidence of rule learning only in the presence of the informative multimodal cues. We hypothesize that the additional evidence present in these multimodal displays was responsible for the success of younger infants in learning rules, congruent with both a Bayesian account and with the Intersensory Redundancy Hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-509
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopmental science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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