Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The ability of a visual signal to influence the localization of an auditory target (i.e., “cross-modal bias”) was examined as a function of the spatial disparity between the two stimuli and their absolute locations in space. Three experimental issues were examined: (a) the effect of a spatially disparate visual stimulus on auditory localization judgments; (b) how the ability to localize visual, auditory, and spatially aligned multi-sensory (visual-auditory) targets is related to cross-modal bias, and (c) the relationship between the magnitude of cross-modal bias and the perception that the two stimuli are spatially “unified” (i.e., originate from the same location). Whereas variability in localization of auditory targets was large and fairly uniform for all tested locations, variability in localizing visual or spatially aligned multisensory targets was much smaller, and increased with increasing distance from the midline. This trend proved to be strongly correlated with biasing effectiveness, for although visual-auditory bias was unexpectedly large in all conditions tested, it decreased progressively (as localization variability increased) with increasing distance from the mid-line. Thus, central visual stimuli had a substantially greater biasing effect on auditory target localization than did more peripheral visual stimuli. It was also apparent that cross-modal bias decreased as the degree of visual-auditory disparity increased. Consequently, the greatest visual-auditory biases were obtained with small disparities at central locations. In all cases, the magnitude of these biases covaried with judgments of spatial unity. The results suggest that functional properties of the visual system play the predominant role in determining these visual-auditory interactions and that cross-modal biases can be substantially greater than previously noted.