Interactions between apparent motion rivalry in vision and touch

Psychol Sci. 2012 Aug 1;23(8):940-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797612438735. Epub 2012 Jul 17.


In multistable perception, the brain alternates between several perceptual explanations of ambiguous sensory signals. It is unknown whether multistable processes can interact across the senses. In the study reported here, we presented subjects with unisensory (visual or tactile), spatially congruent visuotactile, and spatially incongruent visuotactile apparent motion quartets. Congruent stimulation induced pronounced visuotactile interactions, as indicated by increased dominance times for both vision and touch, and an increased percentage bias for the percept already dominant under unisensory stimulation. Thus, the joint evidence from vision and touch stabilizes the more likely perceptual interpretation and thereby decelerates the rivalry dynamics. Yet the temporal dynamics depended also on subjects' attentional focus and was generally slower for tactile than for visual reports. Our results support Bayesian approaches to perceptual inference, in which the probability of a perceptual interpretation is determined by combining visual, tactile, or visuotactile evidence with modality-specific priors that depend on subjects' attentional focus. Critically, the specificity of visuotactile interactions for spatially congruent stimulation indicates multisensory rather than cognitive-bias mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult