Illusory double flashes can speed up responses like physical ones: Evidence from the sound-induced flash illusion

Department of Cognitive and Biological Psychology, University of Tübingen, Friedrichstrasse 21, 72072 Tübingen, Germany.
Experimental Brain Research (Impact Factor: 2.04). 08/2011; 214(1):113-9. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-011-2811-z
Source: PubMed


When a single brief flash is accompanied by two auditory beeps, participants often report perceiving two flashes. The present experiment examined whether the perception of illusory redundant flashes can result in faster responses as compared to the perception of a single flash, because previous research has shown such a redundancy gain for physical stimuli. To this end, participants were asked to respond as rapidly as possible to the onset of any flash. Following their response, they additionally indicated whether they perceived a single flash or a double flash. Most importantly, we observed significant shorter reaction times in response to redundant flashes, irrespective of whether they were physically presented or illusorily perceived. Taken together, our results suggest that an illusory percept can affect simple reaction time in much the same manner as the corresponding physical stimulation.

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    • "Numerous studies have shown that the flash illusion is not explicable as a simple response bias (e.g., McCormick and Mamassian, 2008; Mishra et al., 2007; Rosenthal et al., 2009; Watkins et al., 2006), or by participants incorrectly judging the number of sounds rather than the number of flashes (e.g., Shams et al., 2002). Indeed, the illusory flash has even been shown to have measurable behavioural (Fiedler et al., 2011; McCormick and Mamassian, 2008) and neural (Mishra et al., 2007, 2008; Watkins et al., 2006, 2007) characteristics. "
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    ABSTRACT: Selective attention and multisensory integration are fundamental to perception, but little is known about whether, or under what circumstances, these processes interact to shape conscious awareness. Here, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the causal role of attention-related brain networks in multisensory integration between visual and auditory stimuli in the sound-induced flash illusion. The flash illusion is a widely studied multisensory phenomenon in which a single flash of light is falsely perceived as multiple flashes in the presence of irrelevant sounds. We investigated the hypothesis that extrastriate regions involved in selective attention, specifically within the right parietal cortex, exert an influence on the multisensory integrative processes that cause the flash illusion. We found that disruption of the right angular gyrus, but not of the adjacent supramarginal gyrus or of a sensory control site, enhanced participants' veridical perception of the multisensory events, thereby reducing their susceptibility to the illusion. Our findings suggest that the same parietal networks that normally act to enhance perception of attended events also play a role in the binding of auditory and visual stimuli in the sound-induced flash illusion.
    Full-text · Article · May 2012 · NeuroImage
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    ABSTRACT: When a single flash of light is presented interposed between two brief auditory stimuli separated by 60-100 msec, subjects typically report perceiving two flashes [Shams, L., Kamitani, Y., & Shimojo, S. Visual illusion induced by sound. Brain Research, Cognitive Brain Research, 14, 147-152, 2002; Shams, L., Kamitani, Y., & Shimojo, S. Illusions. What you see is what you hear. Nature, 408, 788, 2000]. Using ERP recordings, we previously found that perception of the illusory extra flash was accompanied by a rapid dynamic interplay between auditory and visual cortical areas that was triggered by the second sound [Mishra, J., Martínez, A., Sejnowski, T. J., & Hillyard, S. A. Early cross-modal interactions in auditory and visual cortex underlie a sound-induced visual illusion. Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 4120-4131, 2007]. In the current study, we investigated the effect of attention on the ERP components associated with the illusory extra flash in 15 individuals who perceived this cross-modal illusion frequently. All early ERP components in the cross-modal difference wave associated with the extra flash illusion were significantly enhanced by selective spatial attention. The earliest attention-related modulation was an amplitude increase of the positive-going PD110/PD120 component, which was previously shown to be correlated with an individual's propensity to perceive the illusory second flash [Mishra, J., Martínez, A., Sejnowski, T. J., & Hillyard, S. A. Early cross-modal interactions in auditory and visual cortex underlie a sound-induced visual illusion. Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 4120-4131, 2007]. The polarity of the early PD110/PD120 component did not differ as a function of the visual field (upper vs. lower) of stimulus presentation. This, along with the source localization of the component, suggested that its principal generator lies in extrastriate visual cortex. These results indicate that neural processes previously shown to be associated with the extra flash illusion can be modulated by attention, and thus are not the result of a wholly automatic cross-modal integration process.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2009 · Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: In a go/no-go experiment, semantic redundancy gain was assessed for responses to single written words. Specifically, we asked participants to respond only to words whose meaning matched at least one semantic target feature-that is, the target category (e.g., animal), the target color (e.g., gray), or both. On redundant-target trials, the word (e.g., elephant) matched both semantic target features (i.e., gray and animal). On single-target trials, the word (e.g., beaver) matched one target feature (i.e., animal) and a nontarget feature (i.e., brown). We observed shorter reaction times in the redundant-target condition than in the faster single-target condition. Hence, the present study provides the first evidence that redundancy gain is not limited to responses to redundant proximal stimulus features but can also be observed for responses to semantic feature information.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2012 · Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
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