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Multisensory perception and decision-making with a new sensory skill

Negen, J and Bird, L and Slater, H and Thaler, L and Nardini, M 'Multisensory perception and decision-making with a new sensory skill.', Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance .


It is clear that people can learn a new sensory skill – a new way of mapping sensory inputs onto world states. It remains unclear how flexibly a new sensory skill can become embedded in multisensory perception and decision-making. To address this, we trained typically-sighted participants (N=12) to use a new echo-like auditory cue to distance in a virtual world, together with a noisy visual cue. Using model-based analyses, we tested for key markers of efficient multisensory perception and decision-making with the new skill. We found that twelve of fourteen participants learned to judge distance using the novel auditory cue. Their use of this new sensory skill showed three key features: (1) it enhanced the speed of timed decisions; (2) it largely resisted interference from a simultaneous digit span task; and (3) it integrated with vision in a Bayes-like manner to improve precision. We also show some limits following this relatively short training: precision benefits were lower than the Bayesoptimal prediction, and there was no forced fusion of signals. We conclude that people already embed new sensory skills in flexible multisensory perception and decision-making after a short training period. A key application of these insights is to the development of sensory augmentation systems that can enhance human perceptual abilities in novel ways. The limitations we reveal (sub-optimality, lack of fusion) provide a foundation for further investigations of the limits of these abilities and their brain basis.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal.
Date accepted:09 January 2023
Date deposited:10 January 2023
Date of first online publication:No date available
Date first made open access:10 January 2023

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