Prenatal Perceptual Experience and Postnatal Perceptual Preferences: Evidence for Attentional-Bias in Perceptual Learning
Honeycutt, Hunter Gibson
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Previous studies have indicated that concurrent multimodal stimulation can interfere with prenatal perceptual learning. However, the nature and extent of this interference is not well understood. This study further assessed this issue by exposing three groups of bobwhite quail embryos to (a) no unusual prenatal stimulation, (b) a bobwhite maternal call, or (c) a maternal call + light compound in the period prior to hatching. Experiments differed in terms of the types of stimuli presented during postnatal preference tests (Exp 1 = familiar call vs. unfamiliar call; Exp 2 = familiar compound vs. unfamiliar compound; Exp 3 = familiar compound verses unfamiliar call; Exp 4 = familiar call vs. unfamiliar compound). Embryos receiving no supplemental stimulation showed no preference between stimulus events in all testing conditions. Embryos receiving exposure to a unimodal call preferred the familiar call over the unfamiliar call regardless of the presence or absence of patterned light during testing. Embryos receiving concurrent audio-visual exposure showed no preference between stimulus events in Exp 1 and Exp 4, but did prefer the familiar call when it was paired with light during testing (Exp 2 and 3). These findings suggest that concurrent multimodal stimulation does not interfere with prenatal perceptual learning by overwhelming the young organism's limited attentional capacities. Rather, multimodal biases what information is attended to during exposure and subsequent testing. Results are discussed within an attentional-bias framework, which maintains that young organisms tend to initially process non-redundant compound events as integrative units rather than processing the components of the compound separately.
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