Temporal ventriloquism studied by means of a backward masking paradigm

Daniel Linares, Department of Basic Psychology, University of Barcelona

Temporal order judgments between two visual events occurring in close temporal proximity can improve when they are temporally surrounded by two task-irrelevant sounds. This auditory-induced improvement if often attribute to sounds distorting the time in which the visual events reach awareness (temporal ventriloquism). That is, the perceived time of each visual event would be temporally attracted towards the nearest sound, thereby increasing their perceived relative timing difference and hence facilitating the task. Here, we test the generality of temporal ventriloquism by studying the consequences of irrelevant sounds in a visual task not involving explicit temporal judgments. We used a backward masking paradigm: the perception of a briefly displayed visual stimulus (target) is impaired when is followed by another visual stimulus (mask) presented in the same location. Importantly, the amount of masking strongly depends on the relative timing (SOA) between the target and the mask. In our experiments we compared the masking dependency on SOA in purely visual displays and in displays where a sound was presented before the target and another sound after the mask. We found very small differences in terms of the amount of masking between these two situations, a result that questions the generality of the phenomenon of temporal ventriloquism.

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