Attention to auditory and peripheral visual stimuli: Effects of arousal and predictability

Thomas L. Johnson, Kimron L. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Changes in the distribution of attention among auditory and peripheral visual stimuli were examined in a choice reaction time paradigm. Two variables were manipulated: predictability of stimulus locations and arousal state of subjects. The arousal level of some subjects was raised by occasionally exposing them to brief, mild electric shocks. On most trials either a tone or a light was presented alone (single-stimulus trials). However, on 20% of the trials both a tone and light were presented simultaneously (dual trials). Two dependent variables were used to assess dominance of attention: reaction time (on all trials) and percentage of time each modality was chosen on dual trials. Neither modality was dominant when subjects were in nonaroused state and stimulus locations were unpredictable. However, peripheral vision dominated when stimulus locations were predictable or when the subjects' level of arousal was raised. The results are discussed with reference to previous research on sensory dominance and on the facilitating or inhibiting effects of auditory stimuli on reaction time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1989
Externally publishedYes


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