Do children learn better by seeing and hearing than by seeing or hearing?

    • Topic: Cognitive Development

    • Location: Discovery Center

    Research with adults has shown that we perceive, learn and remember best when we can both see and hear events, rather than just see or hear them. Our lab is studying whether children, ages 4-7, also use combined auditory and visual information to boost their perception and learning.

    In this study, children will play three games on a tablet. First, they will search for a unique object (e.g., a banana) hidden amongst other objects (e.g., slugs) either in conjunction with the presentation of sounds or in silence. Then, children will hear a segment of speech and be asked to match it to one or more silent videos showing people talking. Finally, children will hear two different segments of speech and be asked to recall them. To see how children’s performance compares to adults’ performance, the researchers will also ask some adults to play the same games.

    We expect children will: discover the hidden object more quickly when they can hear it making a sound than when it is silent; correctly match the audible and visible speech; and remember the different speech segments. If children’s and adults’ performance is similar, this will show that both children and adults benefit from the multisensory cues typically available in their everyday world.

    This research is being conducted by the Communication Development Laboratory (located in the Behrakis Blg., Room 525) at Northeastern University. For more information, you may contact David J. Lewkowicz, Ph.D., (, who is the Director of the Lab and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

        » Communication Development Lab at Northeastern University

    Activities to Try in the Discovery Center

    A Whale’s Tale

    Head to the Discovery Boxes on the first floor of the Discovery Center. Pull out the Whales box, and from it the Echo locator (looks like a salt/pepper shaker). What happens when you shake it? Ask your child to close their eyes, then move to a different location a few feet away from them and shake it again. Ask your child to point to your new location. What sense(s) were they using to find you? Why do whales need to use their sense of sound to communicate either in lieu of, or to enhance, their sense of sight?

    Activities to Try at Home

    ♫ B-I-N-G-O ♫

    With your child or as a large group, sing through the song BINGO:

    “There was a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o. B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, and Bingo was his name-o.”

    Repeat the song, this time replacing every “B” of Bingo’s name with a clap. In the next round, replace the “B” and the “I.” Continue on and, eventually, change the rules so that instead of a hand-clap, everybody stays silent in place. Is this harder or more difficult for the group to keep rhythm? Is everybody able to come back into the song at the same time and proper place?

    Playing with Patterns

    Gather together at least 4 different musical instruments, literal or homemade (pots and pans, blocks). Working with your child, create a pattern of sounds that you can repeat over and over. Continue playing the pattern, and then ask your child to close their eyes. Quickly change out one of the instruments/sounds. What is your child’s reaction?

Research Spotlight

Contact Living Laboratory staff: