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The Number of Stimulus-Onset Asynchronies Affects the Perception of the Sound-Induced Flash Illusion in Young and Older Adults

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For more content, see Seeing and Perceiving and Spatial Vision.

The sound-induced flash illusion is a multisensory illusion occurring when one flash is presented with two beeps and perceived as two flashes. Younger individuals are largely susceptible to the illusion when the stimulus onset asynchrony between the first and the second beep falls within the temporal window of integration, but the susceptibility falls dramatically outside of this short temporal range. Older individuals, in particular older adults prone to falling and/or mild cognitive impairment, show an extended susceptibility to the illusion. This suggests that they have inefficient multisensory integration, particularly in the temporal domain. In the present study, we investigated the reliability of the illusion across younger and older people, guided by the hypothesis that the experimental context, i.e., exposure to a wider or smaller number of stimulus onset asynchronies, would modify the intra-personal susceptibility to the illusion at shorter asynchronies vs. longer asynchronies, likely due to the gathering of model evidence based on Bayesian inference. We tested 22 young adults and 29 older adults and verified these hypotheses. Both groups showed higher susceptibility to the illusion when exposed to a smaller range of asynchronies, but only for longer ones, not within the 100 ms window. We discuss the theoretical implications in terms of online perceptual learning and practical implications in terms of standardisation of the experimental context when attempting to find normative values.

Affiliations: 1: School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

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