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We propose a multisensory framework based on Glaser and Glaser's (1989) general reading-naming interference model to account for the semantic priming effect by naturalistic sounds and spoken words on visual picture sensitivity. Four experiments were designed to investigate two key issues: First, can auditory stimuli enhance visual sensitivity when the sound leads the picture as well as when they are presented simultaneously? And, second, do naturalistic sounds (e.g., a dog's "woofing") and spoken words (e.g., /dɔg/) elicit similar semantic priming effects? Here, we estimated participants' sensitivity and response criterion using signal detection theory in a picture detection task. The results demonstrate that naturalistic sounds enhanced visual sensitivity when the onset of the sounds led that of the picture by 346 ms (but not when the sounds led the pictures by 173 ms, nor when they were presented simultaneously, Experiments 1-3A). At the same SOA, however, spoken words did not induce semantic priming effects on visual detection sensitivity (Experiments 3B and 4A). When using a dual picture detection/identification task, both kinds of auditory stimulus induced a similar semantic priming effect (Experiment 4B). Therefore, we suggest that there needs to be sufficient processing time for the auditory stimulus to access its associated meaning to modulate visual perception. Besides, the interactions between pictures and the two types of sounds depend not only on their processing route to access semantic representations, but also on the response to be made to fulfill the requirements of the task.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform

Publication Date





1554 - 1568


Association, Auditory Perception, Awareness, Cues, Female, Humans, Male, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Reaction Time, Recognition (Psychology), Semantics, Signal Detection, Psychological, Speech Perception, Time Perception, Young Adult