Human trimodal perception follows optimal statistical inference

David R Wozny, Ulrik R Beierholm, Ladan Shams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Our nervous system typically processes signals from multiple sensory modalities at any given moment and is therefore posed with two important problems: which of the signals are caused by a common event, and how to combine those signals. We investigated human perception in the presence of auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation in a numerosity judgment task. Observers were presented with stimuli in one, two, or three modalities simultaneously and were asked to report their percepts in each modality. The degree of congruency between the modalities varied across trials. For example, a single flash was paired in some trials with two beeps and two taps. Cross-modal illusions were observed in most conditions in which there was incongruence among the two or three stimuli, revealing robust interactions among the three modalities in all directions. The observers' bimodal and trimodal percepts were remarkably consistent with a Bayes-optimal strategy of combining the evidence in each modality with the prior probability of the events. These findings provide evidence that the combination of sensory information among three modalities follows optimal statistical inference for the entire spectrum of conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24.1-11
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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