mcgurk effect

“Paying” Attention to Audiovisual Speech: Do Incongruent Stimuli Incur Greater Costs?

The McGurk effect is a multisensory phenomenon in which discrepant auditory and visual speech signals typically result in an illusory percept. McGurk stimuli are often used in studies assessing the attentional requirements of audiovisual integration, but no study has directly compared the costs associated with integrating congruent versus incongruent audiovisual speech. Some evidence suggests that the McGurk effect may not be representative of naturalistic audiovisual speech processing – susceptibility to the McGurk effect is not associated with the ability to derive benefit from the addition of the visual signal, and distinct cortical regions are recruited when processing congruent versus incongruent speech. In two experiments, one using response times to identify congruent and incongruent syllables and one using a dual-task paradigm, we assessed whether congruent and incongruent audiovisual speech incur different attentional costs. We demonstrated that response times to both the speech task (Experiment 1) and a secondary vibrotactile task (Experiment 2) were indistinguishable for congruent compared to incongruent syllables, but McGurk fusions were responded to more quickly than McGurk non-fusions. These results suggest that despite documented differences in how congruent and incongruent stimuli are processed, they do not appear to differ in terms of processing time or effort, at least in the open-set task speech task used here. However, responses that result in McGurk fusions are processed more quickly than those that result in non-fusions, though attentional cost is comparable for the two response types.

What Accounts for Individual Differences in Susceptibility to the McGurk Effect?

The McGurk effect is a classic audiovisual speech illusion in which discrepant auditory and visual syllables can lead to a fused percept (e.g., an auditory /bɑ/ paired with a visual /gɑ/ often leads to the perception of /dɑ/). The McGurk effect is robust and easily replicated in pooled group data, but there is tremendous variability in the extent to which individual participants are susceptible to it. In some studies, the rate at which individuals report fusion responses ranges from 0% to 100%. Despite its widespread use in the audiovisual speech perception literature, the roots of the wide variability in McGurk susceptibility are largely unknown. This study evaluated whether several perceptual and cognitive traits are related to McGurk susceptibility through correlational analyses and mixed effects modeling. We found that an individual’s susceptibility to the McGurk effect was related to their ability to extract place of articulation information from the visual signal (i.e., a more fine-grained anal- ysis of lipreading ability), but not to scores on tasks measuring attentional control, processing speed, working memory capacity, or auditory perceptual gradiency. These results provide support for the claim that a small amount of the variability in susceptibility to the McGurk effect is attributable to lipreading skill. In contrast, cognitive and perceptual abilities that are commonly used predictors in individual differences studies do not appear to underlie susceptibility to the McGurk effect.