A link between individual differences in multisensory speech perception and eye movements

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2015 May;77(4):1333-41. doi: 10.3758/s13414-014-0821-1.


The McGurk effect is an illusion in which visual speech information dramatically alters the perception of auditory speech. However, there is a high degree of individual variability in how frequently the illusion is perceived: some individuals almost always perceive the McGurk effect, while others rarely do. Another axis of individual variability is the pattern of eye movements make while viewing a talking face: some individuals often fixate the mouth of the talker, while others rarely do. Since the talker's mouth carries the visual speech necessary information to induce the McGurk effect, we hypothesized that individuals who frequently perceive the McGurk effect should spend more time fixating the talker's mouth. We used infrared eye tracking to study eye movements as 40 participants viewed audiovisual speech. Frequent perceivers of the McGurk effect were more likely to fixate the mouth of the talker, and there was a significant correlation between McGurk frequency and mouth looking time. The noisy encoding of disparity model of McGurk perception showed that individuals who frequently fixated the mouth had lower sensory noise and higher disparity thresholds than those who rarely fixated the mouth. Differences in eye movements when viewing the talker's face may be an important contributor to interindividual differences in multisensory speech perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Mouth
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*