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The Influence of Auditory Characteristics on Visual Targeting and Tracking Performance: A Cross-Modal Experiment

24 July 2009


This study is an examination of participants’ (N=31) completion of simple visual-targeting and visual-tracking tasks while listening to a variety of auditory stimuli. By controlling the visual task and manipulating the auditory stimuli, characteristics that cause deficits in performance on visual tasks were explored. The design of the visual task minimized the task’s respective cognitive load and the visual task’s repetitive nature created a familiar, if not automatic, cognitive process. Characteristics of the audio stimuli were designed to increase in complexity and level of engagement. This study provides evidence of cross-modal competition between auditory and visual modalities resulting in performance deficits on a low-load visual task. It provides further evidence that attentional resources are shared among sensory modalities. The characteristic most responsible for performance deficits in the visual task was level of engagement with the audio stimulus. The relationship between level of engagement and performance remains unclear with results showing both facilitative and inhibitory effects on speed and accuracy.


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