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Dave Ellemberg, Franco Lepore, Christine Turgeon; Children hear better than they see!. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):468. doi: 10.1167/10.7.468.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Several studies measured the development of different aspects of auditory and visual perception separately without the possibility of comparing their rate of maturation. The results of one study that did compare the development of both modalities suggest that temporal processing develops more rapidly for the auditory compared to the visual modality (Droit-Volet, Tourret, & Wearden, 2004). The present study charted and compared the development of sensory responses to basic visual and auditory stimuli. We measured contrast (visual condition) and pure-tone (auditory condition) detection and discrimination for physically similar stimuli. The visual stimuli consisted of luminance modulated sine-wave gratings that had a spatial frequency of 1 and 5 cpd. The auditory stimuli consisted of pure-tones that had a frequency of 500 and 4000 Hz. A control condition equated the amplitude of the auditory and visual stimuli for the frequency discrimination condition. Thresholds were measured with a temporal 2-AFC procedure combined with an adaptive staircase. Participants were children 6, 8, and 10 years of age and adults (n=16 per group). Statistical analyses using a GLM showed that detection thresholds in the auditory modality are mature by 6 and 8 years of age for the lower and higher frequencies, respectively. In contrast, detection thresholds in the visual modality are still immature at 10 years for the low frequency and become mature at 8 years of age for the higher frequency. A similar pattern was found for frequency discrimination. In the auditory modality, it is mature by 8 years for both frequencies, whilst in the visual modality it is mature by 10 years of age for the lower and 8 years for the higher frequency. Together, these results suggest that sensitivity in the auditory modality matures more rapidly during early childhood and achieves adult levels earlier than sensitivity in the visual modality.
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