August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Comparing auditory and visual temporal attention
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Juneau Wang
    Boston University
  • Christopher Conroy
    SUNY College of Optometry
  • Rachel Denison
    Boston University
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  Boston University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) award to J.W., federal work-study award to J.W., Boston University startup funding to R.D.
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5007. doi:
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      Juneau Wang, Christopher Conroy, Rachel Denison; Comparing auditory and visual temporal attention. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5007.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Introduction: Voluntary temporal attention lets us prioritize sensory information at task-relevant points in time. In vision, temporal attention improves perception at an attended moment with relative impairments before and after. Here we investigated how voluntary temporal attention affects auditory vs. visual perception to test the domain generality of selective temporal attention. Methods: We designed an auditory temporal attention experiment matched to a previous visual temporal attention experiment (Denison et al., 2017) to allow a direct comparison between the two. Two sequential auditory frequency sweeps (targets T1 and T2) with independent sweep directions (up or down) and central frequencies (800–2400 Hz) each lasted 30 ms, separated by a 250-ms stimulus onset asynchrony. A visual precue (75% validity) instructed observers to attend to T1, T2, or both (neutral precue). A visual response cue after the targets instructed observers to report the sweep direction of either T1 or T2. Sweep discrimination accuracy and reaction time were statistically compared to the previous visual results from an analogous orientation discrimination task. Results: Mean discrimination accuracy and reaction time were well-matched across the auditory and visual experiments, indicating similar levels of task difficulty. Reaction times were fastest for valid, slowest for invalid, and intermediate for neutral temporal precues in both experiments, with no difference between experiments, confirming that participants followed the precueing instructions. However, the experiments showed different effects of temporal attention on accuracy, with a stronger effect of validity on visual vs. auditory discrimination performance. Further, in the auditory task, precue validity affected performance for T1 but not for T2, whereas in the visual task, validity affected performance for both targets. Conclusion: Temporal attention affected reaction time similarly but perceptual sensitivity differently for audition and vision. The results open avenues for further research comparing the perceptual effects and timescales of auditory and visual temporal attention.


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