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Nicole Wurnitsch, Gerrit Maus, Paul F. Bulakowski, David Whitney; Collisions are seen before they are heard. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):736. doi: 10.1167/11.11.736.
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Several studies have found that auditory information has an advantage over visual information in terms of neural processing time, leaving a binding problem when judging simultaneity of auditory and visual events. Therefore, when a moving object collides with another object, the percept of the sound of the collision may precede the visual event. In the current study, participants made a temporal order judgment between briefly presented sounds and visual moving objects colliding into, and disappearing behind, a centrally fixated target. The speed of the visual stimulus and the relative timing between the visual and auditory event were manipulated. We observed an illusion whereby a moving dot was perceived to collide with a fixated target prior to the onset of a physically synchronous beep. We found that this asynchrony increased with increasing dot speed. The processing advantage for the moving object was observed although there was no motion after the collision. This finding supports the idea that moving visual objects (and their collisions) have a perceptual advantage over auditory events.
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