Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Colavita Dominance Effect Revisited: The Effect of Semantic Congruity

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Colavita Dominance Effect Revisited: The Effect of Semantic Congruity

Article excerpt

Published online: 14 August 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract To investigate the effect of semantic congruity on audiovisual target responses, participants detected a semantic concept that was embedded in a series of rapidly presented stimuli. The target concept appeared as a picture, an environmental sound, or both; and in bimodal trials, the audiovisual events were either consistent or inconsistent in their representation of a semantic concept. The results showed faster detection latencies to bimodal than to unimodal targets and a higher rate of missed targets when visual distractors were presented together with auditory targets, in comparison to auditory targets presented alone. The findings of Experiment 2 showed a cross-modal asymmetry, such that visual distractors were found to interfere with the accuracy of auditory target detection, but auditory distractors had no effect on either the speed or the accuracy of visual target detection. The biasedcompetition theory of attention (Desimone & Duncan Annual Review of Neuroscience 18: 1995; Duncan, Humphreys, & Ward Current Opinion in Neurobiology 7: 255-261 1997) was used to explain the findings because, when the saliency of the visual stimuli was reduced by the addition of a noise filter in Experiment 4, visual interference on auditory target detection was diminished. Additionally, the results showed faster and more accurate target detection when semantic concepts were represented in a visual rather than an auditory format.

Keywords Visual Dominance effect . Cross-modal effects . Semantic congruency . Audiovisual

Processing real-world events involves multiple sources of information, and there is no doubt that such rich sensory stimulation enhances perception of those events. Interestingly, however, research with multisensory stimuli does not always result in performance advantages as compared to unimodal stimulus events (Colavita, 1974: Koppen, Alsius, & Spence, 2008; Lee & Chan, 2008). One notable example is the Colavita visual dominance effect (Colavita, 1974), which shows that when simple audiovisual stimuli are presented and targets appear in both modalities unexpectedly, visual targets are detected more often than auditory targets. The visual dominance effect occurs even though detection accuracy with unimodal testing conditions is comparable across modalities. The finding has been robust in spite of variation in stimulus intensity (Colavita, 1974; Lee & Chan, 2008) and directed attention to each of the modalities (Koppen et al., 2008; Sinnett, Spence, & Soto- Faraco, 2007). However, there is considerable variation in the responses to bimodal and unimodal events when the task changes from the speeded modality discrimination task used in the original study by Colavita to a speeded detection task (Sinnett, Soto-Faraco, & Spence, 2008) and when the task requires the use of one or three response buttons (Molholm, Ritter, Javitt, & Foxe, 2004; Sinnett et al., 2008). Speeded detection responses with one response key, in particular, show faster facilitated responses to bimodal than to unimodal events, an effect that is referred to as the redundant-target effect.

It is indeed intriguing that the detection responses to bimodal events can change so dramatically from visual dominance, which is essentially an interference effect, to a facilitation effect with such modest changes in task parameters. The present study builds on recent efforts (Ngo, Sinnett, Soto- Faraco, & Spence, 2010; Sinnett et al., 2008) by testing whether the phenomenon of visual dominance over audition is also demonstrated when participants are asked to detect a target concept rather than a specific stimulus item within a modality.

Ngo et al. (2010) have recently shown that visual dominance over audition can occur when participants are asked to detect stimulus events that are defined by an abstract rule. Audiovisual streams of objects and environmental sounds were presented, and participants were instructed to detect an immediate repetition of a stimulus item by pressing one of three response keys in order to indicate whether the repeated item was an audio, visual, or bimodal event. …

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