Rapid recalibration to audiovisual asynchrony follows the physical—not the perceived—temporal order

Erik Van der Burg*, David Alais, John Cass

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In natural scenes, audiovisual events deriving from the same source are synchronized at their origin. However, from the perspective of the observer, there are likely to be significant multisensory delays due to physical and neural latencies. Fortunately, our brain appears to compensate for the resulting latency differences by rapidly adapting to asynchronous audiovisual events by shifting the point of subjective synchrony (PSS) in the direction of the leading modality of the most recent event. Here we examined whether it is the perceived modality order of this prior lag or its physical order that determines the direction of the subsequent rapid recalibration. On each experimental trial, a brief tone pip and flash were presented across a range of stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). The participants’ task alternated over trials: On adaptor trials, audition either led or lagged vision with fixed SOAs, and participants judged the order of the audiovisual event; on test trials, the SOA as well as the modality order varied randomly, and participants judged whether or not the event was synchronized. For test trials, we showed that the PSS shifted in the direction of the physical rather than the perceived (reported) modality order of the preceding adaptor trial. These results suggest that rapid temporal recalibration is determined by the physical timing of the preceding events, not by one’s prior perceptual decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2060-2068
Number of pages9
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number8
Early online date2 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Audition
  • Awareness
  • Multisensory processing
  • Temporal order
  • Temporal recalibration
  • Vision


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