The intersensory redundancy hypothesis: Extending the principle of unimodal facilitation to prenatal development

Dev Psychobiol. 2017 Nov;59(7):910-915. doi: 10.1002/dev.21551. Epub 2017 Aug 21.


Selective attention to different properties of stimulation provides the foundation for perception, learning, and memory. The Intersensory Redundancy Hypothesis (IRH) proposes that early in development information presented redundantly across two or more modalities (multimodal) selectively recruits attention to and enhances perceptual learning of amodal properties, whereas information presented to a single sense modality (unimodal) enhances perceptual learning of modality-specific properties. The present study is the first to assess this principle of unimodal facilitation in non-human animals in prenatal development. We assessed bobwhite quail embryos' prenatal detection of pitch, a modality-specific property, under conditions of unimodal and bimodal (synchronous or asynchronous) exposure. Chicks exposed to prenatal unimodal auditory stimulation or asynchronous bimodal (audiovisual) stimulation preferred the familiarized maternal call over a novel pitch-modified maternal call following hatching, whereas chicks exposed to redundant (synchronous) audiovisual stimulation failed to prefer the familiar call over the pitch-modified call. These results provide further evidence that selective attention is recruited to specific stimulus properties of events in early development and that these biases are evident even during the prenatal period.

Keywords: development of perception; intersensory redundancy; prenatal auditory discrimination; selective attention; unimodal facilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Colinus / growth & development
  • Colinus / physiology*
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*