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14-12-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2021 Open Access

Psychological Research 2/2021

Processing time not modality dominates shift costs in the modality-shifting effect

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2021
Hettie Roebuck, Kun Guo, Patrick Bourke
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Shifting attention between visual and auditory targets is associated with reaction time costs, known as the modality-shifting effect. The type of modality shifted from, e.g., auditory or visual is suggested to have an effect on the degree of cost. Studies report greater costs shifting from visual stimuli, yet notably used visual stimuli that are also identified slower than the auditory. It is not clear whether the cost is specific to modality effects, or with identification speed independent of modality. Here, to interpret whether the effects are due to modality or identification time, switch costs are instead compared with auditory stimuli that are identified slower than the visual (inverse of tested previously). A second condition used the same auditory stimuli at a low intensity, allowing comparison of semantically identical stimuli that are even slower to process. The current findings contradicted suggestions of a general difficulty in shifting from visual stimuli (as previously reported), and instead suggest that cost is reduced when targets are preceded by a more rapidly processed stimulus. ‘Modality-Shifting’ as it is often termed induces shifting costs, but the costs are not because of a change of modality per se, but because of a change in identification speed, where the degree of cost is dependent on the processing time of the surrounding stimuli.

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