Multisensory Integration in Social and Nonsocial Events and Emerging Language in Toddlers

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Virginia Tech


Multisensory integration enables young children to combine information across their senses to create rich, coordinated perceptual experiences. Events with high intersensory redundancy across the senses provide salient experiences which aid in the integration process and facilitate perceptual learning. Thus, this study’s first objective was to evaluate if toddlers’ multisensory integration abilities generalize across social/nonsocial conditions, and if multisensory integration abilities predict 24-month-old’s language development. Additionally, previous research has not examined contextual factors, such as socioeconomic status or parenting behaviors, that may influence the development of multisensory integration skills. As such, this study’s second aim was to evaluate whether maternal sensitivity and SES moderate the proposed relationship between multisensory integration and language outcomes. Results indicated that toddlers’ multisensory integration abilities, F(1,33) = 4.191, p = .049, but not their general attention control skills, differed as a function of condition (social or nonsocial), and that social multisensory integration significantly predicted toddlers’ expressive vocabularies at 24-months old, β = .530, p = .007. However, no evidence was found to suggest that SES or maternal sensitivity moderated the detected relationship between multisensory integration abilities and language outcomes; rather, mothers’ maternal sensitivity scores directly predicted toddlers’ expressive language outcomes, β = .320, p = .044, in addition to their social multisensory integration skills. These findings suggest that at 24-months of age, both sensitive maternal behaviors and the ability to integrate social multisensory information are important to the development of early expressive language outcomes.



multisensory integration, language, maternal sensitivity, toddlerhood