Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 203, Issue 2, pp 261–270 | Cite as

Fundamental differences in change detection between vision and audition

  • Laurent DemanyEmail author
  • Catherine Semal
  • Jean-René Cazalets
  • Daniel Pressnitzer
Research Article


We compared auditory change detection to visual change detection using closely matched stimuli and tasks in the two modalities. On each trial, participants were presented with a test stimulus consisting of ten elements: pure tones with various frequencies for audition, or dots with various spatial positions for vision. The test stimulus was preceded or followed by a probe stimulus consisting of a single element, and two change-detection tasks were performed. In the “present/absent” task, the probe either matched one randomly selected element of the test stimulus or none of them; participants reported present or absent. In the “direction-judgment” task, the probe was always slightly shifted relative to one randomly selected element of the test stimulus; participants reported the direction of the shift. Whereas visual performance was systematically better in the present/absent task than in the direction-judgment task, the opposite was true for auditory performance. Moreover, whereas visual performance was strongly dependent on selective attention and on the time interval separating the probe from the test stimulus, this was not the case for auditory performance. Our results show that small auditory changes can be detected automatically across relatively long temporal gaps, using an implicit memory system that seems to have no similar counterpart in the visual domain.


Change detection Temporal binding Sensory memory Attention 



Authors LD and DP contributed equally to this work. We thank Prof. Patrick Cavanagh and Dr. Andrei Gorea for helpful discussions about the visual experiments. We also thank Dr. Etienne Guillaud for technical assistance and Dr. Trevor Agus for suggestions on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurent Demany
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catherine Semal
    • 1
  • Jean-René Cazalets
    • 1
  • Daniel Pressnitzer
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratoire Mouvement, Adaptation, Cognition (UMR CNRS 5227)Université de BordeauxBordeauxFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception (UMR CNRS 8158)Université Paris-Descartes and Ecole Normale SupérieureParisFrance

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