In tasks requiring a comparison of the duration of a reference and a test visual cue, the spatial position of test cue is likely to be implicitly coded, providing a form of a congruency effect or introducing a response bias according to the environmental scale or its vectorial reference. The precise mechanism generating these perceptual shifts in subjective duration is not understood, although several studies suggest that spatial attentional factors may play a critical role. Here we use a duration comparison task within and across sensory modalities to examine if temporal performance is also modulated when people are exposed to spatial distractors involving different sensory modalities. Different groups of healthy participants performed duration comparison tasks in separate sessions: a time comparison task of visual stimuli during exposure to spatially presented auditory distractors; and a time comparison task of auditory stimuli during exposure to spatially presented visual distractors. We found the duration of visual stimuli biased depending on the spatial position of auditory distractors. Observers underestimated the duration of stimuli presented in the left spatial field, while there was an overestimation trend in estimating the duration of stimuli presented in the right spatial field. In contrast, timing of auditory stimuli was unaffected by exposure to visual distractors. These results support the existence of multisensory interactions between space and time showing that, in cross-modal paradigms, the presence of auditory distractors can modify visuo-temporal perception but not vice versa. This asymmetry is discussed in terms of sensory-perceptual differences between the two systems.
Vicario, C.M., Rappo, G., Pepi, A., Oliveri, M. (2009). Timing flickers across sensory modalities. PERCEPTION, 38(8), 1144-1151 [10.1068/p6362].