Auditory - visual interactions in the perception of a ball's path

A J. Ecker
L M. Heller

Abstract or Description

We carried out two experiments to measure the combined perceptual effect of visual and auditory information on the perception of a moving object's trajectory. All visual stimuli consisted of a perspective rendering of a ball moving in a three-dimensional box. Each video was paired with one of three sound conditions: silence, the sound of a ball rolling, or the sound of a ball hitting the ground. We found that the sound condition influenced whether observers were more likely to perceive the ball as rolling back in depth on the floor of the box or jumping in the frontal plane. In a second experiment we found further evidence that the reported shift in path perception reflects perceptual experience rather than a deliberate decision process. Instead of directly judging the ball's path, observers judged the ball's speed. Speed is an indirect measure of the perceived path because, as a result of the geometry of the box and the viewing angle, a rolling ball would travel a greater distance than a jumping ball in the same time interval. Observers did judge a ball paired with a rolling sound as faster than a ball paired with a jumping sound. This auditory-visual interaction provides an example of a unitary percept arising from multisensory input.