Verbally based dichotic-listening experiments and reproduction-mediated response-selection strategies have been used for over four decades to study perceptual/cognitive aspects of auditory information processing and make inferences about hemispheric asymmetries and language lateralization in the brain. Test procedures using dichotic digits have also been used to assess for disorders of auditory processing. However, with this application, limitations exist and paradigms need to be developed to improve specificity of the diagnosis. Use of matched tasks in multiple sensory modalities is a logical approach to address this issue. Herein, we use dichotic listening and dichoptic viewing of visually presented digits for making this comparison.
To evaluate methodological issues involved in using matched tasks of dichotic listening and dichoptic viewing in normal adults.
A multivariate assessment of the effects of modality (auditory vs. visual), digit-span length (1-3 pairs), response selection (recognition vs. reproduction), and ear/visual hemifield of presentation (left vs. right) on dichotic and dichoptic digit perception.
Thirty adults (12 males, 18 females) ranging in age from 18 to 30 yr with normal hearing sensitivity and normal or corrected-to-normal visual acuity.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS:
A computerized, custom-designed program was used for all data collection and analysis. A four-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) evaluated the effects of modality, digit-span length, response selection, and ear/visual field of presentation.
The ANOVA revealed that performances on dichotic listening and dichoptic viewing tasks were dependent on complex interactions between modality, digit-span length, response selection, and ear/visual hemifield of presentation. Correlation analysis suggested a common effect on overall accuracy of performance but isolated only an auditory factor for a laterality index.
The variables used in this experiment affected performances in the auditory modality to a greater extent than in the visual modality. The right-ear advantage observed in the dichotic-digits task was most evident when reproduction mediated response selection was used in conjunction with three-digit pairs. This effect implies that factors such as "speech related output mechanisms" and digit-span length (working memory) contribute to laterality effects in dichotic listening performance with traditional paradigms. Thus, the use of multiple-digit pairs to avoid ceiling effects and the application of verbal reproduction as a means of response selection may accentuate the role of nonperceptual factors in performance. Ideally, tests of perceptual abilities should be relatively free of such effects.