Auditory, tactile, and multisensory cues facilitate search for dynamic visual stimuli.
Ngo MK., Spence C.
Presenting an auditory or tactile cue in temporal synchrony with a change in the color of a visual target can facilitate participants' visual search performance. In the present study, we compared the magnitude of unimodal auditory, vibrotactile, and bimodal (i.e., multisensory) cuing benefits when the nonvisual cues were presented in temporal synchrony with the changing of the target's color (Experiments 1 and 2). The target (a horizontal or vertical line segment) was presented among a number of distractors (tilted line segments) that also changed color at various times. In Experiments 3 and 4, the cues were also made spatially informative with regard to the location of the visual target. The unimodal and bimodal cues gave rise to an equivalent (significant) facilitation of participants' visual search performance relative to a no-cue baseline condition. Making the unimodal auditory and vibrotactile cues spatially informative produced further performance improvements (on validly cued trials), as compared with cues that were spatially uninformative or otherwise spatially invalid. A final experiment was conducted in order to determine whether cue location (close to versus far from the visual display) would influence participants' visual search performance. Auditory cues presented close to the visual search display were found to produce significantly better performance than cues presented over headphones. Taken together, these results have implications for the design of nonvisual and multisensory warning signals used in complex visual displays.