Crossmodal facilitation of masked visual target discrimination by informative auditory cuing.
Ngo MK., Spence C.
Temporally synchronous, auditory cues can facilitate participants' performance on dynamic visual search tasks. Making auditory cues spatially informative with regard to the target location can reduce search latencies still further. In the present study, we investigated how multisensory integration, and temporal and spatial attention, might conjointly influence participants' performance on an elevation discrimination task for a masked visual target presented in a rapidly-changing sequence of masked visual distractors. Participants were presented with either spatially uninformative (centrally presented), spatially valid (with the target side), or spatially invalid tones that were synchronous with the presentation of the visual target. Participants responded significantly more accurately following the presentation of the spatially valid as compared to the uninformative or invalid auditory cues. Participants endogenously shifted their attention to the likely location of the target indicated by the valid spatial auditory cue (reflecting top-down, cognitive processing mechanisms), which facilitated their processing of the visual target over and above any bottom-up benefits associated solely with the synchronous presentation of the auditory and visual stimuli. The results of the present study therefore suggest that crossmodal attention (both spatial and temporal) and multisensory integration can work in parallel to facilitate people's ability to most efficiently respond to multisensory information.