There are sights known by the eye … sounds known by the ear … smells known by the nose … tastes known by the tongue … touches known by the body …
How often do similar statements occur in the Suttas? Many times!
Do we ever read: “There are sights known by the eye and the ear”? We don’t. But this is what scientists seem to find:
Visual object recognition is not performed in isolation but depends on prior knowledge and context. Here, we found that auditory context plays a critical role in visual object perception. Using a psychophysical task in which naturalistic sounds were paired with noisy visual inputs, we demonstrated across two experiments (young adults; ns = 18–40 in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively) that the representations of ambiguous visual objects were shifted toward the visual features of an object that were related to the incidental sound. In a series of control experiments, we found that these effects were not driven by decision or response biases (ns = 40–85) nor were they due to top-down expectations (n = 40). Instead, these effects were driven by the continuous integration of audiovisual inputs during perception itself. Together, our results demonstrate that the perceptual experience of visual objects is directly shaped by naturalistic auditory context, which provides independent and diagnostic information about the visual world.