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For many years, researchers have argued that we have separate attentional resources for the processing of information impinging on each of our sensory receptor systems. However, a number of recent studies have demonstrated the existence of shared attentional resources for the processing of auditory, visual and tactile stimuli. In the present study, we examined whether there are also common attentional resources for the processing of chemosensory stimuli. Participants made speeded (left vs. right) footpedal discrimination responses to an unpredictable sequence of visual and chemosensory stimuli presented to either nostril. The participants' attention was directed to one or the other modality by means of a symbolic auditory cue (high or low tone) at the start of each trial, which predicted the likely modality for the upcoming target on the majority (80%) of trials. Participants responded more rapidly when the target occurred in the expected modality than when it occurred in the unexpected modality, implying the existence of shared attentional resources for the processing of chemosensory and visual stimuli.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol A

Publication Date





775 - 783


Attention, Auditory Perception, Chemoreceptor Cells, Cues, Discrimination (Psychology), Humans, Reaction Time, Smell, Touch, Visual Perception