The Development of Intersensory Perception: Comparative Perspectives

The Development of Intersensory Perception: Comparative Perspectives

The Development of Intersensory Perception: Comparative Perspectives

The Development of Intersensory Perception: Comparative Perspectives


This book provides the latest information about the development of intersensory perception -- a topic which has recently begun to receive a great deal of attention from researchers studying the general problem of perceptual development. This interest was inspired after the realization that unimodal perception of sensory information is only the first stage of perceptual processing. Under normal conditions, an organism is faced with multiple, multisensory sources of information and its task is to either select a single relevant source of information or select several sources of information and integrate them. In general, perception and action on the basis of multiple sources of information is more efficient and effective. Before greater efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved, however, the organism must be able to integrate the multiple sources of information. By doing so, the organism can then achieve a coherent and unified percept of the world.

The various chapters in this book examine the developmental origins of intersensory perceptual capacities by presenting the latest research on the development of intersensory perceptual skills in a variety of different species. By adopting a comparative approach to this problem, this volume as a whole helps uncover similarities as well as differences in the mechanisms underlying the development of intersensory integration. In addition, it shows that there is no longer any doubt that intersensory interactions occur right from the beginning of the developmental process, that the nature of these intersensory interactions changes as development progresses, and that early experience contributes in important ways to these changes.


Linda B. Smith Indiana University

The 16 chapters that comprise this book show how far knowledge has advanced since the 1960s. Indeed, the very question that motivated the research enterprise in the first place has been answered. But with this answer comes the opportunity to answer an even more fundamental question. Accordingly, in this foreword, I attempt to place this book in context by considering where research on intersensory functioning has come from, where it is today, and where it may be going.

The past

The central question behind research in intersensory functioning derives from the classic view of the mammalian brain as a highly modular device in which sensory information is transmitted along parallel modality-specific "labeled" lines (Bullock &Horridge, 1965). At least since Johanne Muller Law of Specific Energies (1838/1842), it has seemed patently clear that the brain specifically and separately organizes each modality. This modular view of the brain, however, contradicts psychological reality. Our perceptions are unitary. Sights, sounds, and the haptic feel of things are coordinated. Thus, we have the central theoretical problem, the binding problem: How are the separate and qualitatively distinct modalities coordinated and put together? the traditional solution to the binding problem has been to assume that the distinct sensory streams are merged and integrated in the association areas of the cortex--at the top of the hierarchy of brain functioning. This classic . . .

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