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We examined the effects of modality expectancy on human performance. Participants judged azimuth (left vs. right location) for an unpredictable sequence of auditory, visual, and tactile targets. In some blocks, equal numbers of targets were presented in each modality. In others, the majority (75%) of the targets were presented in just one expected modality. Reaction times (RTs) for targets in an unexpected modality were slower than when that modality was expected or when no expectancy applied. RT costs associated with shifting attention from the tactile modality were greater than those for shifts from either audition or vision. Any RT benefits for the most likely modality were due to priming from an event in the same modality on the previous trial, not to the expectancy per se. These results show that stimulus-driven and expectancy-driven effects must be distinguished in studies of attending to different sensory modalities.


Journal article


Percept Psychophys

Publication Date





330 - 336


Adult, Attention, Auditory Perception, Female, Humans, Male, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Reaction Time, Set (Psychology), Touch