Benefits for voice learning caused by concurrent faces develop over time

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Recognition of personally familiar voices benefits from the concurrent presentation of the corresponding speakers' faces. This effect of audiovisual integration is most pronounced for voices combined with dynamic articulating faces. However, it is unclear if learning unfamiliar voices also benefits from audiovisual face-voice integration or, alternatively, is hampered by attentional capture of faces, i.e., "face-overshadowing". In six study-test cycles we compared the recognition of newly-learned voices following unimodal voice learning vs. bimodal face-voice learning with either static (Exp. 1) or dynamic articulating faces (Exp. 2). Voice recognition accuracies significantly increased for bimodal learning across study-test cycles while remaining stable for unimodal learning, as reflected in numerical costs of bimodal relative to unimodal voice learning in the first two study-test cycles and benefits in the last two cycles. This was independent of whether faces were static images (Exp. 1) or dynamic videos (Exp. 2). In both experiments, slower reaction times to voices previously studied with faces compared to voices only may result from visual search for faces during memory retrieval. A general decrease of reaction times across study-test cycles suggests facilitated recognition with more speaker repetitions. Overall, our data suggest two simultaneous and opposing mechanisms during bimodal face-voice learning: while attentional capture of faces may initially impede voice learning, audiovisual integration may facilitate it thereafter.




Zäske, R., Mühl, C., & Schweinberger, S. R. (2015). Benefits for voice learning caused by concurrent faces develop over time. PLoS ONE, 10(11).

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