Responding to sounds from unseen locations: crossmodal attentional orienting in response to sounds presented from the rear.
Spence C., Lee J., Van der Stoep N.
To date, most of the research on spatial attention has focused on probing people's responses to stimuli presented in frontal space. That is, few researchers have attempted to assess what happens in the space that is currently unseen (essentially rear space). In a sense, then, 'out of sight' is, very much, 'out of mind'. In this review, we highlight what is presently known about the perception and processing of sensory stimuli (focusing on sounds) whose source is not currently visible. We briefly summarize known differences in the localizability of sounds presented from different locations in 3D space, and discuss the consequences for the crossmodal attentional and multisensory perceptual interactions taking place in various regions of space. The latest research now clearly shows that the kinds of crossmodal interactions that take place in rear space are very often different in kind from those that have been documented in frontal space. Developing a better understanding of how people respond to unseen sound sources in naturalistic environments by integrating findings emerging from multiple fields of research will likely lead to the design of better warning signals in the future. This review highlights the need for neuroscientists interested in spatial attention to spend more time researching what happens (in terms of the covert and overt crossmodal orienting of attention) in rear space.