Modality Effects As A Methodological Tool

Modality effects, specifically auditory and visual differences, can be used as a methodological tool to advance our understanding of normal timing. Application of interval timing paradigms that include a modality component to particular populations, such as healthy aged persons, can provide a window to the nature of the timing system, its function over the life span, and how it interacts with other cognitive and physiological variables. For example, there are numerous studies of the effects of divided attention on temporal processing. Although the majority of these studies used a timing task in combination with some other nontiming task, or instructed subjects to differentially allocate attention (e.g., Brown, 1985; Fortin, this volume; Macar et al., 1994; Sawyer et al., 1994), there are a few studies of simultaneous temporal processing (see Pang and McAuley, this volume). Most of these simultaneous temporal processing studies in humans have used two timing signals taken from different modalities (e.g., Penney et al., 2000). Therefore, it is important to consider the influence of stimulus modality in addition to the attentional demands of the specific task when interpreting the results. Indeed, the argument presented here is that the modality effect is, in essence, an attentional effect that relates to issues of automatic and controlled processing and switch closure efficacies.

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