Abstract

People typically respond faster to a stimulus when it is accompanied by a task-irrelevant accessory stimulus presented in another perceptual modality. However, the mechanisms responsible for this accessory-stimulus effect are still poorly understood. We examined the effects of auditory accessory stimulation on the processing of visual stimuli using scalp electrophysiology (Experiment 1) and a diffusion model analysis (Experiment 2). In accordance with previous studies, lateralized readiness potentials indicated that accessory stimuli do not speed motor execution. Surface Laplacians over the motor cortex, however, revealed a bihemispheric increase in motor activation—an effect predicted by nonspecific arousal models. The diffusion model analysis suggested that accessory stimuli do not affect parameters of the decision process, but expedite only the nondecision component of information processing. Consequently, we conclude that accessory stimuli facilitate stimulus encoding. The visual P1 and N1 amplitudes on accessory-stimulus trials were modulated in a way that is consistent with multisensory energy integration, a possible mechanism for this facilitation.

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