Auditory capture of visual motion: effects on perception and discrimination

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We asked whether the perceived direction of visual motion and contrast thresholds for motion discrimination are influenced by the concurrent motion of an auditory sound source. Visual motion stimuli were counterphasing Gabor patches, whose net motion energy was manipulated by adjusting the contrast of the leftward-moving and rightward-moving components. The presentation of these visual stimuli was paired with the simultaneous presentation of auditory stimuli, whose apparent motion in 3D auditory space (rightward, leftward, static, no sound) was manipulated using interaural time and intensity differences, and Doppler cues. In experiment 1, observers judged whether the Gabor visual stimulus appeared to move rightward or leftward. In experiment 2, contrast discrimination thresholds for detecting the interval containing unequal (rightward or leftward) visual motion energy were obtained under the same auditory conditions. Experiment 1 showed that the perceived direction of ambiguous visual motion is powerfully influenced by concurrent auditory motion, such that auditory motion ‘captured’ ambiguous visual motion. Experiment 2 showed that this interaction occurs at a sensory stage of processing as visual contrast discrimination thresholds (a criterion-free measure of sensitivity) were significantly elevated when paired with congruent auditory motion. These results suggest that auditory and visual motion signals are integrated and combined into a supramodal (audiovisual) representation of motion.

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