Load-induced inattentional deafness

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2015 Feb;77(2):483-92. doi: 10.3758/s13414-014-0776-2.


High perceptual load in a task is known to reduce the visual perception of unattended items (e.g., Lavie, Beck, & Konstantinou, 2014). However, it remains an open question whether perceptual load in one modality (e.g., vision) can affect the detection of stimuli in another modality (e.g., hearing). We report four experiments that establish that high visual perceptual load leads to reduced detection sensitivity in hearing. Participants were requested to detect a tone that was presented during performance of a visual search task of either low or high perceptual load (varied through item similarity). The findings revealed that auditory detection sensitivity was consistently reduced with higher load, and that this effect persisted even when the auditory detection response was made first (before the search response) and when the auditory stimulus was highly expected (50 % present). These findings demonstrate a phenomenon of load-induced deafness and provide evidence for shared attentional capacity across vision and hearing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Functional / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult