Flash illusions induced by visual, auditory, and audiovisual stimuli


Abstract When two objects are flashed at one location in close temporal proximity in the visual periphery, an intriguing illusion occurs whereby a single flash presented concurrently at another location appears to flash twice (the visual double-flash illusion: Chatterjee et al., 2011, Wilson & Singer, 1981). Here, for the first time, we investigate the time course of the effect, and directly compare it to the time course of the auditory (sound-induced flash illusion) effect, for both fission (single test flash, double inducer) and fusion (double test flash, single inducer) conditions, across stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 30 to 250 ms. In addition, using a novel audiovisual stimulus, we directly compare the cue strength of the two modalities, and whether they are additive in effect. The results show that the time course of fission and fusion is different for visual inducers, but not for auditory inducers. In audiovisual conditions, in situations of uncertainty, observers tended to follow the more reliable (auditory) cue. There was little evidence for a superadditive effect of auditory and visual cues; rather, observers tended to follow one or the other modality. The results suggest that the visually induced flash illusion and the auditory-induced effect may both stem from perceptual uncertainty, with the difference in time courses attributable to the lower temporal resolution of vision compared to audition.

Journal of vision