Separate attentional resources for vision and audition

David Alais, Concetta Morrone, David Burr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Current models of attention, typically claim that vision and audition are limited by a common attentional resource which means that visual performance should be adversely affected by a concurrent auditory task and vice versa. Here, we test this implication by measuring auditory (pitch) and visual (contrast) thresholds in conjunction with cross-modal secondary tasks and find that no such interference occurs. Visual contrast discrimination thresholds were unaffected by a concurrent chord or pitch discrimination, and pitch-discrimination thresholds were virtually unaffected by a concurrent visual search or contrast discrimination task. However, if the dual tasks were presented within the same modality, thresholds were raised by a factor of between two (for visual discrimination) and four (for auditory discrimination). These results suggest that at least for low-level tasks such as discriminations of pitch and contrast, each sensory modality is under separate attentional control, rather than being limited by a supramodal attentional resource. This has implications for current theories of attention as well as for the use of multi-sensory media for efficient informational transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1339-1345
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume273
Issue number1592
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 7 2006

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Audition
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

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