Audiotactile temporal order judgments in sighted and blind individuals.
Occelli V., Spence C., Zampini M.
In the present study, we examined the potential modulatory effect of relative spatial position on audiotactile temporal order judgments (TOJs) in sighted, early, and late blind adults. Pairs of auditory and tactile stimuli were presented from the left and/or right of participants at varying stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) using the method of constant stimuli. The participants had to make unspeeded TOJs regarding which sensory modality had been presented first on each trial. Systematic differences between the participants emerged: While the performance of the sighted participants was unaffected by whether the two stimuli were presented from the same or different positions (replicating the results of several recent studies), the blind participants (regardless of the age of onset of blindness) were significantly more accurate when the auditory and tactile stimuli were presented from different positions rather than from the same position. These results provide the first empirical evidence to suggest a spatial modulation of audiotactile interactions in a temporal task performed by visually impaired humans. The fact that the performance of the blind participants was modulated by the relative spatial position of the stimuli is consistent with data showing that visual deprivation results in an improved ability to process spatial cues within the residual tactile and auditory modalities. These results support the hypothesis that the absence of visual cues results in the emergence of more pronounced audiotactile spatial interactions.