Tactile input and empathy modulate the perception of ambiguous biological motion
Previous studies have shown that in tasks requiring participants to report the direction of apparent motion, task-irrelevant mono-beeps can "capture" visual motion perception when the beeps occur temporally close to the visual stimuli. However, the contributions of the relative timing of multimodal events and the event structure, modulating uni- and/or crossmodal perceptual grouping, remain unclear. To examine this question and extend the investigation to the tactile modality, the current experiments presented tactile two-tap apparent-motion streams, with an SOA of 400 ms between successive, left-/right-hand middle-finger taps, accompanied by task-irrelevant, non-spatial auditory stimuli. The streams were shown for 90 seconds, and participants' task was to continuously report the perceived (left- or rightward) direction of tactile motion. In Experiment 1, each tactile stimulus was paired with an auditory beep, though odd-numbered taps were paired with an asynchronous beep, with audiotactile SOAs ranging from -75 ms to 75 ms. Perceived direction of tactile motion varied systematically with audiotactile SOA, indicative of a temporal-capture effect. In Experiment 2, two audiotactile SOAs--one short (75 ms), one long (325 ms)--were compared. The long-SOA condition preserved the crossmodal event structure (so the temporal-capture dynamics should have been similar to that in Experiment 1), but both beeps now occurred temporally close to the taps on one side (even-numbered taps). The two SOAs were found to produce opposite modulations of apparent motion, indicative of an influence of crossmodal grouping. In Experiment 3, only odd-numbered, but not even-numbered, taps were paired with auditory beeps. This abolished the temporal-capture effect and, instead, a dominant percept of apparent motion from the audiotactile side to the tactile-only side was observed independently of the SOA variation. These findings suggest that asymmetric crossmodal grouping leads to an attentional modulation of apparent motion, which inhibits crossmodal temporal-capture effects.