Publication Date

Fall 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Cary S. Feria


Characteristic sounds, Cognition, Realistic scenes, Scene perception, SOA, Visual search

Subject Areas



The purpose of this experiment was to investigate whether meaningful sounds can facilitate visual search performance in the context of realistic scenes. It also aimed to determine whether the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) of sound and picture is a significant factor in enhancing performance. A 3 X 4 X 2 within subject design was used with independent factors sound congruency (congruent, incongruent and white noise), SOA (-1000, -500, 0, 300 ms), and target presence (present and absent). Participants were 55 (34 female and 21 male) college aged students at San Jose State University. On each trial participants were presented with a word cue indicating the target object, then depending on the condition they either 1) heard a sound and saw a picture simultaneously (SOA 0), 2) heard a sound followed by a scene (negative SOA), or 3) viewed a scene followed by a sound (positive SOA). The results indicated a congruency effect only at the negative SOAs, when the sound preceded the picture by 1000 or 500 ms. However, we did not observe a significant advantage of -1000 SOA over -500 SOA. Moreover, performance was significantly degraded at the positive SOA 300. Overall, these results suggest that congruent characteristic sounds can enhance visual search performance in realistic scenes, provided that they are presented at least 500 ms before the picture.