Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Infants’ perception of rhythm and tempo in unimodal and multimodal stimulation: A developmental test of the intersensory redundancy hypothesis

  • 631 Accesses

  • 39 Citations


Research has demonstrated that young infants can detect a change in the tempo and the rhythm of an event when they experience the event bimodally (audiovisually), but not when they experience it unimodally (acoustically or visually). According to Bahrick and Lickliter (2000, 2002), intersensory redundancy available in bimodal, but not in unimodal, stimulation directs attention to the amodal properties of events in early development. Later in development, as infants become more experienced perceivers, attention becomes more flexible and can be directed toward amodal properties in unimodal and bimodal stimulation. The present study tested this developmental hypothesis by assessing the ability of older, more perceptually experienced infants to discriminate the tempo or rhythm of an event, using procedures identical to those in prior studies. The results indicated that older infants can detect a change in the rhythm and the tempo of an event following both bimodal (audiovisual) and unimodal (visual) stimulation. These results provide further support for the intersensory redundancy hypothesis and are consistent with a pattern of increasing specificity in perceptual development.


  1. Allen, M., Dodd, K., Flom, R., & Bahrick, L. E. (2003, April). Intersensory redundancy: Five- and seven-month-olds’ perception of affect. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Tampa, FL.

  2. Bahrick, L. E. (1983). Infants’ perception of substance and temporal synchrony in multimodal events. Infant Behavior & Development, 6, 429–451.

  3. Bahrick, L. E. (1987). Infants’ intermodal perception of two levels of temporal structure in natural events. Infant Behavior & Development, 10, 387–416.

  4. Bahrick, L. E. (1988). Intermodal learning in infancy: Learning on the basis of two kinds of invariant relations in audible and visible events. Child Development, 59, 197–209.

  5. Bahrick, L. E. (1992). Infants’ perceptual differentiation of amodal and modality-specific audio-visual relations. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 53, 180–199.

  6. Bahrick, L. E. (1994). The development of infants’ sensitivity to arbitrary intermodal relations. Ecological Psychology, 6, 111–123.

  7. Bahrick, L. E. (2001). Increasing specificity in perceptual development: Infants’ detection of nested levels of multimodal stimulation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 79, 253–270.

  8. Bahrick, L. E. (2004). The development of perception in a multimodal environment. In G. Bremner & A. Slater (Eds.), Theories of infant development (pp. 90–120). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

  9. Bahrick, L. E., Flom, R., & Lickliter, R. (2002). Intersensory redundancy facilitates discrimination of tempo in 3-month-old infants. Developmental Psychobiology, 41, 352- 363.

  10. Bahrick, L. E., & Lickliter, R. (2000). Intersensory redundancy guides attentional selectivity and perceptual learning in infancy. Developmental Psychology, 36, 190–201.

  11. Bahrick, L. E., & Lickliter, R. (2002). Intersensory redundancy guides early cognitive and perceptual development. In R. V. Kail (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 30, pp. 153–187). New York: Academic Press.

  12. Bahrick, L. E., Lickliter, R., & Flom, R. (2004a). Intersensory redundancy guides infants’ selective attention, perceptual, and cognitive development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 99–102.

  13. Bahrick, L.E., Lickliter, R., & Flom, R. (2004b). Up versus down: The role of intersensory redundancy in infants’ sensitivity to the orientation of moving objects. Manuscript under review.

  14. Bahrick, L. E., Lickliter, R., Shuman, M., Batista, L., & Grandez, C. (2003, April). Infant discrimination of voices: Predictions from the intersensory redundancy hypothesis. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Tampa, FL.

  15. Bahrick, L. E., Moss, L., & Fadil, C. (1996). The development of visual self-recognition in infancy. Ecological Psychology, 8, 189–208.

  16. Barrera, M., & Maurer, D. (1981). Recognition of mother’s photographed face by the three month old infant. Child Development, 52, 714–716.

  17. Bertenthal, B. I., Haith, M. M., & Campos, J. J. (1983). The partiallag design: A method for controlling spontaneous regression in the infant-control habituation paradigm. Infant Behavior & Development, 6, 331–338.

  18. Calvert, G. A., Spence, C., & Stein, B. E. (2004). The handbook of multisensory processes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  19. Caron, A. J., Caron, R. F., Caldwell, R. C., & Weiss, S. J. (1973). Infant perception of the structural properties of the face. Developmental Psychology, 19, 385–399.

  20. Cohen, L., & Strauss, M. S. (1979). Concept acquisition in the human infant. Child Development, 50, 419–424.

  21. DeCasper, A. J, & Fifer, W. (1980). Of human bonding: Newborns prefer their mothers’ voices. Science, 208, 1174–1176.

  22. Dodd, B. (1979). Lip reading in infants: Attention to speech presented in-and-out of synchrony. Cognitive Psychology, 11, 478–484.

  23. Fagan, J. F. (1972). Infants’ recognition memory for faces. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 14, 453–476.

  24. Fagan, J. F. (1976). Infants’ recognition of invariant features of faces. Child Development, 47, 627–638.

  25. Gibson, E. J. (1969). Principles of perceptual learning and development. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

  26. Gogate, L. J., & Bahrick, L. E. (1998). Intersensory redundancy facilitates learning of arbitrary relations between vowel sounds and objects in seven-month-old infants. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 69, 1–17.

  27. Hernandez-Reif, M., & Bahrick, L. E. (2001). The development of visual-tactual perception of objects: Amodal relations provide the basis for learning arbitrary relations. Infancy, 2, 51–72.

  28. Horowitz, F. D., Paden, L., Bhana, K., & Self, P. (1972). An infantcontrol procedure for studying infant visual fixations. Developmental Psychology, 7, 90.

  29. Kuhl, P. K., & Meltzoff, A. N. (1984). The intermodal representation of speech in infants. Infant Behavior & Development, 7, 361–381.

  30. Lewkowicz, D. J. (1996). Infants’ response to the audible and visible properties of the human face: Role of lexical syntactic content, temporal synchrony, gender, and manner of speech. Developmental Psychology, 32, 347–366.

  31. Lewkowicz, D. J. (2000). The development of intersensory temporal perception: An epigenetic systems/limitations view. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 281–308.

  32. Lewkowicz, D. J. (2004). Perception of serial order in infants. Developmental Science, 7, 175–184.

  33. Lickliter, R., & Bahrick, L. E. (2000). The development of infant intersensory perception: Advantages of a comparative, convergentoperations approach. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 260–280.

  34. Lickliter, R., Bahrick, L. E., & Honeycutt, H. (2002). Intersensory redundancy facilitates perceptual learning in bobwhite quail embryos. Developmental Psychology, 38, 15–23.

  35. Lickliter, R., Bahrick, L. E., & Honeycutt, H. (2004). Intersensory redundancy enhances memory in bobwhite quail embryos. Infancy, 5, 253–269.

  36. Lickliter, R., Bahrick, L. E., & Markham, R. (2004, May). Intersensory redundancy can educate attention during prenatal development. Paper presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Chicago.

  37. Miller, C. L. (1983). Developmental changes in male/female voice classification by infants. Infant Behavior & Development, 6, 313–330.

  38. Miller, C. L., Younger, B. A., & Morse, P. A. (1982). The categorization of male and female voices in infancy. Infant Behavior & Development, 5, 143–159.

  39. Shimojo, S., & Shams, L. (2001). Sensory modalities are not separate modalities: Plasticity and interactions. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 11, 505–509.

  40. Slater, A., Quinn, P. C., Brown, E., & Hayes, R. (1999). Intermodal perception at birth: Intersensory redundancy guides newborn infants’ learning of arbitrary auditory-visual pairings. Developmental Science, 2, 333–338.

  41. Spelke, E. S. (1979). Perceiving bimodally specified events in infancy. Developmental Psychology, 15, 626–636.

  42. Spelke, E. S., Born, W., & Chu, F. (1983). Perception of moving, sounding objects by four-month-old infants. Perception, 12, 719–732.

  43. Stein, B. E., & Meredith, M. A. (1993). The merging of the senses. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  44. Walker-Andrews, A. S. (1997). Infants’ perception of expressive behaviors: Differentiation of multimodal information. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 437–456.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Lorraine E. Bahrick.

Additional information

This research was supported by NIMH Grants RO1 MH62226 and RO1 MH62225, awarded to the first and second authors, respectively.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bahrick, L.E., Lickliter, R. Infants’ perception of rhythm and tempo in unimodal and multimodal stimulation: A developmental test of the intersensory redundancy hypothesis. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 4, 137–147 (2004). https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.4.2.137

Download citation


  • Perceptual Learning
  • Visual Fixation
  • Visual Recovery
  • Habituation Trial
  • Bimodal Condition