The effect of phasic auditory alerting on visual perception

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Phasic alertness refers to a short-lived change in the preparatory state of the cognitive system following an alerting signal. In the present study, we examined the effect of phasic auditory alerting on distinct perceptual processes, unconfounded by motor components. We combined an alerting/no-alerting design with a pure accuracy-based single-letter recognition task. Computational modeling based on Bundesen’s Theory of Visual Attention was used to examine the effect of phasic alertness on visual processing speed and threshold of conscious perception. Results show that phasic auditory alertness affects visual perception by increasing the visual processing speed and lowering the threshold of conscious perception (Experiment 1). By manipulating the intensity of the alerting cue, we further observed a positive relationship between alerting intensity and processing speed, which was not seen for the threshold of conscious perception (Experiment 2). This was replicated in a third experiment, in which pupil size was measured as a physiological marker of alertness. Results revealed that the increase in processing speed was accompanied by an increase in pupil size, substantiating the link between alertness and processing speed (Experiment 3). The implications of these results are discussed in relation to a newly developed mathematical model of the relationship between levels of alertness and the speed with which humans process visual information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-81
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Phasic alerting, Theory of visual attention, Mathematical modeling, modelingPupillometry

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