Is visual dominance modulated by the threat value of visual and auditory stimuli?
Van Damme S., Crombez G., Spence C.
The simultaneous presentation of a visual and an auditory stimulus can lead to a decrease in people's ability to perceive or respond to the auditory stimulus. In this study, we investigate the effect that threat has upon this phenomenon, known as the Colavita visual dominance effect. Participants performed two blocks of trials containing 40% visual, 40% auditory, and 20% bimodal trials. The first block of trials was identical for all participants, while in the second block, either the visual stimulus (visual threat condition), auditory stimulus (auditory threat condition), or neither stimulus (control condition) was fear-conditioned using aversive electrocutaneous stimuli. We predicted that, when compared with the control condition, this visual dominance effect would increase in the visual threat condition and decrease in the auditory threat condition. This hypothesis was partially supported by the data. In particular, the results showed that the fear-conditioning of the visual stimulus significantly increased the visual dominance effect relative to the control condition. However, the fear-conditioning of the auditory stimulus did not reduce the visual dominance effect but instead increased it slightly. These findings are discussed in terms of the role that attention and arousal play in the dominance of vision over audition.