PAD Seminar, Dr Karin Petrini
Why children use the senses differently and why this matters
Dr Karin Petrini, University of Bath
In everyday life we are seldom aware of the huge amount of information that reaches our senses. For example, when we talk to someone we receive information through vision about the person’s facial expression, body gestures and mouth movement while also receiving information through sound in form of words and emotional state. Our brain has the difficult task to make sense of all these incoming information and does this through a very useful mechanism that combines all the information from the senses in an optimal way. This way we are able to understand with high certainty what the person talking to us is saying and feeling. In other situations, this mechanism allows us to avoid dangerous situations by using both the sight and sound of a car approaching to best estimate its position. While in adults this mechanism is well developed in children is not present until quite late, that is, not until 8 years of age. Indeed, different studies from our and other labs have now shown that children mostly rely on one sense and that vision is generally very dominant at this early age. These differences between children and adults have important implications not only in everyday situations in which young children could be more prone to errors but also for the development of efficient and adequate aids for the blind.
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