Semantic congruency modulates the speed-up of multisensory responses

Responses to multisensory signals are often faster compared to their unisensory components. This speed-up is typically attributed to target redundancy in that a correct response can be triggered by one or the other signal. In addition, semantic congruency of signals can also modulate multisensory responses; however, the contribution of semantic content is difficult to isolate as its manipulation commonly changes signal redundancy as well. To disentangle the effects of redundancy and semantic congruency, we manipulated semantic content but kept redundancy constant. We presented semantically congruent/incongruent animal pictures and sounds and asked participants to respond with the same response to two target animals (cats and dogs). We find that the speed-up of multisensory responses is larger for congruent (e.g., barking dogs) than incongruent combinations (e.g., barking cats). We then used a computational modelling approach to analyse audio-visual processing interferences that may underlie the effect. Our data is best described by a model that explains the semantic congruency modulation with a parameter that was previously linked to trial sequence effects, which in our experiment occur from the repetition/switching of both sensory modality and animal category. Yet, a systematic analysis of such trial sequence effects shows that the reported congruency effect is an independent phenomenon. Consequently, we discuss potential contributors to the semantic modulation of multisensory responses.

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Roberts K, Jentzsch I & Otto TU (2024). Semantic congruency modulates the speed-up of multisensory responses. Scientific Reports, 14, 567. DOI