Reward expectation influences audiovisual spatial integration

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2014 Aug;76(6):1815-27. doi: 10.3758/s13414-014-0699-y.


In order to determine the spatial location of an object that is simultaneously seen and heard, the brain assigns higher weights to the sensory inputs that provide the most reliable information. For example, in the well-known ventriloquism effect, the perceived location of a sound is shifted toward the location of a concurrent but spatially misaligned visual stimulus. This perceptual illusion can be explained by the usually much higher spatial resolution of the visual system as compared to the auditory system. Recently, it has been demonstrated that this cross-modal binding process is not fully automatic, but can be modulated by emotional learning. Here we tested whether cross-modal binding is similarly affected by motivational factors, as exemplified by reward expectancy. Participants received a monetary reward for precise and accurate localization of brief auditory stimuli. Auditory stimuli were accompanied by task-irrelevant, spatially misaligned visual stimuli. Thus, the participants' motivational goal of maximizing their reward was put in conflict with the spatial bias of auditory localization induced by the ventriloquist situation. Crucially, the amounts of expected reward differed between the two hemifields. As compared to the hemifield associated with a low reward, the ventriloquism effect was reduced in the high-reward hemifield. This finding suggests that reward expectations modulate cross-modal binding processes, possibly mediated via cognitive control mechanisms. The motivational significance of the stimulus material, thus, constitutes an important factor that needs to be considered in the study of top-down influences on multisensory integration.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reward*
  • Sound Localization / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult