Two identical visual targets moving across each other can be perceived either to bounce off or to stream through each other. A brief sound at the moment the targets coincide biases perception toward bouncing. We found that this bounce-inducing effect was attenuated when other identical sounds (auditory flankers) were presented 300 ms before and after the simultaneous sound. The attenuation occurred only when the simultaneous sound and auditory flankers had similar acoustic characteristics and the simultaneous sound was not salient. These results suggest that there is an aspect of auditory-grouping (saliency-assigning) processes that is context-sensitive and can be utilized by the visual system for solving ambiguity. Furthermore, control experiments revealed that such auditory context did not affect the perceptual qualities of the simultaneous sound. Because the attenuation effect is not manifest in the perception of acoustic characteristics of individual sound elements, we conclude that it is a genuine cross-modal effect.
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