Journal article Open Access

Perceiving size through sound in sighted and visually impaired children

Luigi Cuturi; Giulia Cappagli; Alessia Tonelli; Elena Cocchi; Monica Gori

Associations between sensory features of different natures are defined as crossmodal correspondences.
In the context of size perception, low pitch sound frequencies are often associated with
larger objects and high pitch with smaller objects. Here we investigate such crossmodal correspondences
in sighted and visually-impaired children. In Experiment 1, after listening to sounds
(250–5000 Hz pure tones), children aged 6–11 years were asked to draw a circle "as big as the
sound was". In Experiment 2, children aged 6–14 years who were blind or had low vision performed
a similar task. In accordance with previous research, we observed that the circle size
drawn depends on participants’ age and we confirm the presence of pitch-size associations in
sighted children. In visually-impaired children, such associations are influenced by residual
vision, suggesting an anchoring of size perception to level of residual vision. These results reveal
novel dynamics underlying the advancing of visual loss and the emergence of compensatory
mechanisms in childhood.

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