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Signal compatibility as a modulatory factor for audiovisual multisensory integration

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Parise, C. (2012). Signal compatibility as a modulatory factor for audiovisual multisensory integration. PhD Thesis, St. Cross College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-57C7-D
The physical properties of the distal stimuli activating our senses are often correlated in nature; it would therefore be advantageous to exploit such correlations to better process sensory information. Stimulus correlations can be contingent and readily available to the senses (like the temporal correlation between mouth movements and vocal sounds in speech), or can be the results of the statistical co-occurrence of certain stimulus properties that can be learnt over time (like the relation between the frequency of acoustic resonance and the size of the resonator). Over the last century, a large body of research on multisensory processing has demonstrated the existence of compatibility effects between individual features of stimuli from different sensory modalities. Such compatibility effects, termed crossmodal correspondences, possibly reflect the internalization of the natural correlation between stimulus properties. The present dissertation assesses the effects of crossmodal correspondences on multisensory processing and reports a series of experiments demonstrating that crossmodal correspondences influence the processing rate of sensory information, distort perceptual experiences and lead to stronger multisensory integration. Moreover, a final experiment investigating the effects of contingent signals’ correlation on multisensory processing demonstrates the key role of temporal correlation in inferring whether two signals have a common physical cause or not (i.e., the correspondence problem). A Bayesian framework is proposed to interpret the present results whereby stimulus correlations, represented on the prior distribution of expected crossmodal co-occurrence, operate as cues to solve the correspondence problem.