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Vision and Haptics Share Spatial Attentional Resources and Visuotactile Integration Is Not Affected by High Attentional Load

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image of Multisensory Research
For more content, see Seeing and Perceiving and Spatial Vision.

Human information processing is limited by attentional resources. Two questions that are discussed in multisensory research are (1) whether there are separate spatial attentional resources for each sensory modality and (2) whether multisensory integration is influenced by attentional load. We investigated these questions using a dual task paradigm: Participants performed two spatial tasks (a multiple object tracking [‘MOT’] task and a localization [‘LOC’] task) either separately (single task condition) or simultaneously (dual task condition). In the MOT task, participants visually tracked a small subset of several randomly moving objects. In the LOC task, participants either received visual, tactile, or redundant visual and tactile location cues. In the dual task condition, we found a substantial decrease in participants’ performance and an increase in participants’ mental effort (indicated by an increase in pupil size) relative to the single task condition. Importantly, participants performed equally well in the dual task condition regardless of whether they received visual, tactile, or redundant multisensory (visual and tactile) location cues in the LOC task. This result suggests that having spatial information coming from different modalities does not facilitate performance, thereby indicating shared spatial attentional resources for the tactile and visual modality. Also, we found that participants integrated redundant multisensory information optimally even when they experienced additional attentional load in the dual task condition. Overall, findings suggest that (1) spatial attentional resources for the tactile and visual modality overlap and that (2) the integration of spatial cues from these two modalities occurs at an early pre-attentive processing stage.

Affiliations: 1: 1Institute of Cognitive Science, Universität Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany


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