The impact of joint attention on the sound-induced flash illusions

Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics 83 (8):3056–3068 (2021)


Humans coordinate their focus of attention with others, either by gaze following or prior agreement. Though the effects of joint attention on perceptual and cognitive processing tend to be examined in purely visual environments, they should also show in multisensory settings. According to a prevalent hypothesis, joint attention enhances visual information encoding and processing, over and above individual attention. If two individuals jointly attend to the visual components of an audiovisual event, this should affect the weighing of visual information during multisensory integration. We tested this prediction in this preregistered study, using the well-documented sound-induced flash illusions, where the integration of an incongruent number of visual flashes and auditory beeps results in a single flash being seen as two (fission illusion) and two flashes as one (fusion illusion). Participants were asked to count flashes either alone or together, and expected to be less prone to both fission and fusion illusions when they jointly attended to the visual targets. However, illusions were as frequent when people attended to the flashes alone or with someone else, even though they responded faster during joint attention. Our results reveal the limitations of the theory that joint attention enhances visual processing as it does not affect temporal audiovisual integration.

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Author Profiles

Lucas Battich
Institut Jean Nicod
Ophelia Deroy
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

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