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Do cues from multiple modalities support quicker learning in primary schoolchildren?

  • Kirkham, Natasha Z1
  • Rea, Michaela1
  • Osborne, Tamsin1
  • White, Hayely1
  • Mareschal, Denis1
  • 1 Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London.
Published Article
Developmental psychology
Publication Date
Aug 08, 2019
DOI: 10.1037/dev0000778
PMID: 31393138


The current study investigates whether informative, mutually redundant audiovisual cues support better performance in a category learning paradigm. Research suggests that, under some conditions, redundant multisensory cues supports better learning, when compared with unisensory cues. This was examined systematically across two experiments. In Experiment 1, children aged 5, 7, and 10 years were allocated to 1 of the 3 "modality" conditions (audio informative only, visual informative only, and audiovisual informative) and explicitly instructed to learn the category membership of individual exemplars, as determined by a threshold of correct responses. Unisensory or redundant multisensory cues determined category membership, depending on the learning condition. In addition to significant main effects of age group and condition, a significant interaction between age and sensory condition was found, with 5-year-olds performing better when presented with redundant multisensory cues compared to unisensory cues. Ten-year-olds performed better with auditory informative only cues, compared to visual informative only cues, or informative but redundant multisensory cues, with no significant difference between the latter two. In Experiment 2, the multisensory condition was presented to separate groups of 5-, 7-, and 10-year-olds, examining explicit learning outcomes in the audiovisual informative condition. Results showed that children who reached threshold during training were faster, made fewer errors, and performed better during test trials. Learning appeared to be based on the visual informative cues. Findings are discussed in the context of age-related selective attention, suggesting that the value of providing multisensory informative cues to support real-world learning depends on age and instructional context. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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