Auditory Distractors in the Visual Modality: No Evidence for Perceptual Load Hypothesis or Auditory Dominance

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The Ohio State University

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Attention is a valuable resource with limited capacity, so knowing what will distract us during important tasks can be crucial in life. There is a lot of support for the Perceptual Load Hypothesis (PLH) when examining visual distractibility; however, less research has examined if PLH can predict auditory distractibility. Participants in the current study completed three experiments using visual selective attention tasks while being presented with auditory and visual distractions under low/high perceptual loads. In Experiment 1, I took the visual selective attention task from Robinson et al. (2018) and shortened the stimulus presentation while adding a no distractor baseline condition. In Experiment 2, I increased auditory distractor effects by requiring participants to periodically respond to the auditory information. In Experiment 3, I added a working memory task to increase cognitive load. Results showed no support for PLH with auditory distractors in Experiments 1 or 2, and instead showed the opposite pattern, with auditory distractors having a larger effect under high perceptual load (Experiment 2). Results from Experiment 3 show that increasing cognitive load had no effect on distractibility, which suggests the results from Experiment 2 were caused by periodically responding to the auditory stimuli. These findings have important implications for our understanding of selective attention and shed light on tasks that require the processing of multisensory information.



Perceptual Load Hypothesis, Auditory Dominance, Cogntive Psychology, Multisensory Processing, Selective Attention, Cognitive Load, Perceptual Load