Multisensory enhancement of attention depends on whether you are already paying attention

Lunn, J, Sjoblom, A, Ward, J, Soto-Faraco, S and Forster, S (2019) Multisensory enhancement of attention depends on whether you are already paying attention. Cognition, 187. pp. 38-49. ISSN 0010-0277

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Multisensory stimuli are argued to capture attention more effectively than unisensory stimuli due to their ability to elicit a super-additive neuronal response. However, behavioural evidence for enhanced multisensory attentional capture is mixed. Furthermore, the notion of multisensory enhancement of attention conflicts with findings suggesting that multisensory integration may itself be dependent upon top-down attention. The present research resolves this discrepancy by examining how both endogenous attentional settings and the availability of attentional capacity modulate capture by multisensory stimuli. Across a series of four studies, two measures of attentional capture were used which vary in their reliance on endogenous attention: facilitation and distraction. Perceptual load was additionally manipulated to determine whether multisensory stimuli are still able to capture attention when attention is occupied by a demanding primary task. Multisensory stimuli presented as search targets were consistently detected faster than unisensory stimuli regardless of perceptual load, although they are nevertheless subject to load modulation. In contrast, task irrelevant multisensory stimuli did not cause greater distraction than unisensory stimuli, suggesting that the enhanced attentional status of multisensory stimuli may be mediated by the availability of endogenous attention. Implications for multisensory alerts in practical settings such as driving and aviation are discussed, namely that these may be advantageous during demanding tasks, but may be less suitable to signaling unexpected events.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Attention; perceptual load; multisensory integration; attentional capture; exogenous; audiovisual
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Sanjeedah Choudhury
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2019 15:42
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2020 02:00

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