Rapid integration of biologically relevant information is crucial for the survival of an organism. Most prominently, humans should be biased to attend and respond to looming stimuli that signal approaching danger (e.g. predator) and hence require rapid action. This psychophysics study used binocular rivalry to investigate the perceptual advantage of looming (relative to receding) visual signals (i.e. looming bias) and how this bias can be influenced by concurrent auditory looming/receding stimuli and the statistical structure of the auditory and visual signals.Subjects were dichoptically presented with looming/receding visual stimuli that were paired with looming or receding sounds. The visual signals conformed to two different statistical structures: (1) a 'simple' random-dot kinematogram showing a starfield and (2) a "naturalistic" visual Shepard stimulus. Likewise, the looming/receding sound was (1) a simple amplitude- and frequency-modulated (AM-FM) tone or (2) a complex Shepard tone. Our results show that the perceptual looming bias (i.e. the increase in dominance times for looming versus receding percepts) is amplified by looming sounds, yet reduced and even converted into a receding bias by receding sounds. Moreover, the influence of looming/receding sounds on the visual looming bias depends on the statistical structure of both the visual and auditory signals. It is enhanced when audiovisual signals are Shepard stimuli.In conclusion, visual perception prioritizes processing of biologically significant looming stimuli especially when paired with looming auditory signals. Critically, these audiovisual interactions are amplified for statistically complex signals that are more naturalistic and known to engage neural processing at multiple levels of the cortical hierarchy.
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