Sensory dominance in combinations of audio, visual and haptic stimuli

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Feb;193(2):307-14. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1626-z. Epub 2008 Nov 5.


Participants presented with auditory, visual, or bi-sensory audio-visual stimuli in a speeded discrimination task, fail to respond to the auditory component of the bi-sensory trials significantly more often than they fail to respond to the visual component--a 'visual dominance' effect. The current study investigated further the sensory dominance phenomenon in all combinations of auditory, visual and haptic stimuli. We found a similar visual dominance effect also in bi-sensory trials of combined haptic-visual stimuli, but no bias towards either sensory modality in bi-sensory trials of haptic-auditory stimuli. When presented with tri-sensory trials of combined auditory-visual-haptic stimuli, participants made more errors of responding only to two corresponding sensory signals than errors of responding only to a single sensory modality, however, there were no biases towards either sensory modality (or sensory pairs) in the distribution of both types of errors (i.e. responding only to a single stimulus or to pairs of stimuli). These results suggest that while vision can dominate both the auditory and the haptic sensory modalities, it is limited to bi-sensory combinations in which the visual signal is combined with another single stimulus. However, in a tri-sensory combination when a visual signal is presented simultaneously with both the auditory and the haptic signals, the probability of missing two signals is much smaller than of missing only one signal and therefore the visual dominance disappears.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult