In a natural environment, objects that we look for often make characteristic sounds. A hiding cat may meow, or the keys in the cluttered drawer may jingle when moved. Using a visual search paradigm, we demonstrated that characteristic sounds facilitated visual localization of objects, even when the sounds carried no location information. For example, finding a cat was faster when participants heard a meow sound. In contrast, sounds had no effect when participants searched for names rather than pictures of objects. For example, hearing "meow" did not facilitate localization of the word cat. These results suggest that characteristic sounds cross-modally enhance visual (rather than conceptual) processing of the corresponding objects. Our behavioral demonstration of object-based cross-modal enhancement complements the extensive literature on space-based cross-modal interactions. When looking for your keys next time, you might want to play jingling sounds.
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