Evaluating the Effectiveness of Temporally Synchronous and Spatially Predictive Cues in Visual Search

Mary Kim Ngo, Charles Spence
Time: 2009-06-30  09:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Last modified: 2009-06-04


The presentation of spatially predictive auditory cues can reduce visual search times for targets presented in the central visual field (Perrott et al., 1990). Spatially-nonpredictive auditory or tactile cues have also been shown to facilitate visual search when their presentation is synchronized with that of the target (Fujisaki et al., 2006; Van der Burg et al., 2008; Van der Burg et al., 2009). To date, researchers have either looked at the effect of temporal synchrony or at the effects of spatial coincidence on visual search performance singularly, but never both at the same time. The present study was therefore designed to explore how the temporal synchrony and/or spatial coincidence of auditory cues would modulate visual search performance. Participants searched for a horizontal or vertical line segment among distractor line segments, all of which regularly changed colour (our experimental design was based on Van der Burg et al.’s, 2008, “pip and pop� experiments). In separate conditions, the auditory cues were temporally synchronized with the target colour change and spatially informative regarding the hemifield in which the target where the target was presented. The results showed that the presentation of the auditory cue led to a significant facilitation of search times relative to performance in a no auditory cue baseline condition. Although search times were slightly faster when the auditory cue was both temporally synchronized and spatially informative than when it was temporally synchronized but spatially uninformative, this difference was not significant. Thus, it appears that the benefit attributable to the presentation of a temporally synchronous auditory cue is not augmented by making it spatially informative, at least when the visual search field is relatively small and the auditory cues are presented over headphones. Given that Bolia et al. (1999) have shown that the benefits of spatially informative auditory cues are greater when presented in the free-field as compared to when they are presented over headphones, we will also report on the results of additional experiments in which the auditory cues were presented from external loudspeakers co-localized with the visual search display. Finally, we will compare the magnitude of the facilitation effects following auditory versus tactile cuing. We will also highlight the relevance of these results for research in the applied domain.


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