A phonologically congruent sound boosts a visual target into perceptual awareness

Ruth Adam*, Uta Noppeney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
184 Downloads (Pure)


Capacity limitations of attentional resources allow only a fraction of sensory inputs to enter our awareness. Most prominently, in the attentional blink the observer often fails to detect the second of two rapidly successive targets that are presented in a sequence of distractor items. To investigate how auditory inputs enable a visual target to escape the attentional blink, this study presented the visual letter targets T1 and T2 together with phonologically congruent or incongruent spoken letter names. First, a congruent relative to an incongruent sound at T2 rendered visual T2 more visible. Second, this T2 congruency effect was amplified when the sound was congruent at T1 as indicated by a T1 congruency × T2 congruency interaction. Critically, these effects were observed both when the sounds were presented in synchrony with and prior to the visual target letters suggesting that the sounds may increase visual target identification via multiple mechanisms such as audiovisual priming or decisional interactions. Our results demonstrate that a sound around the time of T2 increases subjects' awareness of the visual target as a function of T1 and T2 congruency. Consistent with Bayesian causal inference, the brain may thus combine (1) prior congruency expectations based on T1 congruency and (2) phonological congruency cues provided by the audiovisual inputs at T2 to infer whether auditory and visual signals emanate from a common source and should hence be integrated for perceptual decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2014


  • Attentional blink
  • Audiovisual synchrony
  • Awareness
  • Bayesian causal inference
  • Crossmodal integration
  • Multisensory integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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