Causal inference regulates audiovisual spatial recalibration via its influence on audiovisual perception

Fangfang Hong, Stephanie Badde, Michael S. Landy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To obtain a coherent perception of the world, our senses need to be in alignment. When we encounter misaligned cues from two sensory modalities, the brain must infer which cue is faulty and recalibrate the corresponding sense. We examined whether and how the brain uses cue reliability to identify the miscalibrated sense by measuring the audiovisual ventriloquism aftereffect for stimuli of varying visual reliability. To adjust for modality-specific biases, visual stimulus locations were chosen based on perceived alignment with auditory stimulus locations for each participant. During an audiovisual recalibration phase, participants were presented with bimodal stimuli with a fixed perceptual spatial discrepancy; they localized one modality, cued after stimulus presentation. Unimodal auditory and visual localization was measured before and after the audiovisual recalibration phase. We compared participants' behavior to the predictions of three models of recalibration: (a) Reliability-based: each modality is recalibrated based on its relative reliability - less reliable cues are recalibrated more; (b) Fixed-ratio: the degree of recalibration for each modality is fixed; (c) Causal-inference: recalibration is directly determined by the discrepancy between a cue and its estimate, which in turn depends on the reliability of both cues, and inference about how likely the two cues derive from a common source. Vision was hardly recalibrated by audition. Auditory recalibration by vision changed idiosyncratically as visual reliability decreased: the extent of auditory recalibration either decreased monotonically, peaked at medium visual reliability, or increased monotonically. The latter two patterns cannot be explained by either the reliability-based or fixed-ratio models. Only the causal-inference model of recalibration captures the idiosyncratic influences of cue reliability on recalibration. We conclude that cue reliability, causal inference, and modality-specific biases guide cross-modal recalibration indirectly by determining the perception of audiovisual stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008877
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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