Sound enhances touch perception
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Certain sounds, such as fingernails screeching down a chalkboard, have a strong association with somatosensory percepts. In order to assess the influences of audition on somatosensory perception, three experiments measured how task-irrelevant auditory stimuli alter detection rates for near-threshold somatosensory stimuli. In Experiment 1, we showed that a simultaneous auditory stimulus increases sensitivity, but not response biases, to the detection of an electrical cutaneous stimulus delivered to the hand. Experiment 2 demonstrated that this enhancement of somatosensory perception is spatially specific—only monaural sounds on the same side increased detection. Experiment 3 revealed that the effects of audition on touch are also frequency dependent—only sounds with the same frequency as the vibrotactile frequency enhanced tactile detection. These results indicate that auditory information influences touch perception in highly systematic ways and suggest that similar coding mechanisms may underlie the processing of information from these different sensory modalities.
KeywordsMultisensory Audition Touch Perception Human Psychophysics
TR designed the experiments; NY and MB made the tactile stimulators used in Experiment 3; TR, JH, NY, and LCE collected the data; TR, JH, NY, and LCE analyzed the data; TR wrote the manuscript. This research was supported in part by NSF Grants 0642801 (TR) and 0642532 (MB). These results were presented at the November, 2007 annual meeting of the Psychonomics Society, Long Beach, CA.
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