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Acta Psychol (Amst). 2005 Oct;120(2):199-226.

The modality shift effect and the effectiveness of warning signals in different modalities.

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1
Division of Psychology, University of Abertay Dundee, Bell Street, Dundee DD1 1HG, United Kingdom. p.rodway@abertay.ac.uk

Abstract

Which is better, a visual or an auditory warning signal? Initial findings suggested that an auditory signal was more effective, speeding reaction to a target more than a visual warning signal, particularly at brief foreperiods [Bertelson, P., & Tisseyre, F. (1969). The time-course of preparation: confirmatory results with visual and auditory warning signals. Acta Psychologica, 30. In W.G. Koster (Ed.), Attention and Performance II (pp. 145-154); Davis, R., & Green, F. A. (1969). Intersensory differences in the effect of warning signals on reaction time. Acta Psychologica, 30. In W.G. Koster (Ed.), Attention and Performance II (pp. 155-167)]. This led to the hypothesis that an auditory signal is more alerting than a visual warning signal [Sanders, A. F. (1975). The foreperiod effect revisited. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 27, 591-598; Posner, M. I., Nissen, M. J., & Klein, R. M. (1976). Visual dominance: an information-processing account of its origins and significance. Psychological Review, 83, 157-171]. Recently [Turatto, M., Benso, F., Galfano, G., & Umilta, C. (2002). Nonspatial attentional shifts between audition and vision. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28, 628-639] found no evidence for an auditory warning signal advantage and showed that at brief foreperiods a signal in the same modality as the target facilitated responding more than a signal in a different modality. They accounted for this result in terms of the modality shift effect, with the signal exogenously recruiting attention to its modality, and thereby facilitating responding to targets arriving in the modality to which attention had been recruited. The present study conducted six experiments to understand the cause of these conflicting findings. The results suggest that an auditory warning signal is not more effective than a visual warning signal. Previous reports of an auditory superiority appear to have been caused by using different locations for the visual warning signal and visual target, resulting in the target arriving at an unattended location when the foreperiod was brief. Turatto et al.'s results were replicated with a modality shift effect at brief foreperiods. However, it is also suggested that previous measures of the modality shift effect may still have been confounded by a location cuing effect.

PMID:
15993828
DOI:
10.1016/j.actpsy.2005.05.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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