Efficient visual search from synchronized auditory signals requires transient audiovisual events

E. van den Burg, J.R. Cass, C.N.L. Olivers, J. Theeuwes, D Alais

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Abstract

Background: A prevailing view is that audiovisual integration requires temporally coincident signals. However, a recent study failed to find any evidence for audiovisual integration in visual search even when using synchronized audiovisual events. An important question is what information is critical to observe audiovisual integration. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we demonstrate that temporal coincidence (i.e., synchrony) of auditory and visual components can trigger audiovisual interaction in cluttered displays and consequently produce very fast and efficient target identification. In visual search experiments, subjects found a modulating visual target vastly more efficiently when it was paired with a synchronous auditory signal. By manipulating the kind of temporal modulation (sine wave vs. square wave vs. difference wave; harmonic sine-wave synthesis; gradient of onset/offset ramps) we show that abrupt visual events are required for this search efficiency to occur, and that sinusoidal audiovisual modulations do not support efficient search. Conclusions/Significance: Thus, audiovisual temporal alignment will only lead to benefits in visual search if the changes in the component signals are both synchronized and transient. We propose that transient signals are necessary in synchronydriven binding to avoid spurious interactions with unrelated signals when these occur close together in time. © 2010 Van der Burg et al.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e10664
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume5
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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