Perceptions of Audio-Visual Impact Events in Younger and Older Adults

In: Multisensory Research
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 27 King’s College Circle, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5S 1A1
  • | 2 The KITE Research Institute-University Health Network, 550 University Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5G 2A2
  • | 3 School of the Arts, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, Canada, L8S 4L8
  • | 4 Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, Canada, L8S 4L8
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Previous studies have examined whether audio-visual integration changes in older age, with some studies reporting age-related differences and others reporting no differences. Most studies have either used very basic and ambiguous stimuli (e.g., flash/beep) or highly contextualized, causally related stimuli (e.g., speech). However, few have used tasks that fall somewhere between the extremes of this continuum, such as those that include contextualized, causally related stimuli that are not speech-based; for example, audio-visual impact events. The present study used a paradigm requiring duration estimates and temporal order judgements (TOJ) of audio-visual impact events. Specifically, the Schutz–Lipscomb illusion, in which the perceived duration of a percussive tone is influenced by the length of the visual striking gesture, was examined in younger and older adults. Twenty-one younger and 21 older adult participants were presented with a visual point-light representation of a percussive impact event (i.e., a marimbist striking their instrument with a long or short gesture) combined with a percussive auditory tone. Participants completed a tone duration judgement task and a TOJ task. Five audio-visual temporal offsets (−400 to +400 ms) and five spatial offsets (from −90 to +90°) were randomly introduced. Results demonstrated that the strength of the illusion did not differ between older and younger adults and was not influenced by spatial or temporal offsets. Older adults showed an ‘auditory first bias’ when making TOJs. The current findings expand what is known about age-related differences in audio-visual integration by considering them in the context of impact-related events.

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