Effects of Ageing on Multimodal Integration in Sound Symbolism
Juster Emma Dissertation 2014.docx (293.7Kb)
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Multimodal integration, whereby information from different sensory inputs combine, is crucial for enhancing the perception of our surroundings and assisting in higher-order decision making. In this thesis we investigate whether multimodal integration is affected by ageing focusing on a particular type, a language device known as sound symbolism. This is the ability to deduce links between the form and meaning of words. Kohler (1929) first reported a bias in participant’s matching of the word ‘takete’ to a shape with jagged properties and ‘baluma’ to one with rounded properties, later termed the bouba-kiki phenomenon by Ramachandran and Hubbard (2001). Further research suggests that it is the consonant content of the word that is responsible for determining its referent, with stop consonants representing jagged shapes and continuants representing rounded shapes. We investigated the effects of ageing on sound symbolism by comparing two populations (20 older and 20 younger adults) ability to learn either an inherently systematic language, based on the bouba-kiki phenomenon, or an artificially systematic language, not based on any know language biases. Our results indicate that overall, individuals are better at learning an inherently systematic language compared to an artificially systematic language. Younger adults perform better than older adults in both systematic language conditions. We also found that while younger adults demonstrate learning of the systematic rule throughout the task, older adults do not, remaining consistent in their performance. We explore our results in more detail whilst relating our findings to the broader research area of multimodal integration.