What accounts for individual differences in susceptibility to the McGurk effect?


The McGurk effect is a classic audiovisual speech illusion in which discrepant auditory and visual syllables can lead to a fused percept (e.g., an auditory /bɑ/ paired with a visual /gɑ/ often leads to the perception of /dɑ/). The McGurk effect is robust and easily replicated in pooled group data, but there is tremendous variability in the extent to which individual participants are susceptible to it. In some studies, the rate at which individuals report fusion responses ranges from 0% to 100%. Despite its widespread use in the audiovisual speech perception literature, the roots of the wide variability in McGurk susceptibility are largely unknown. This study evaluated whether several perceptual and cognitive traits are related to McGurk susceptibility through correlational analyses and mixed effects modeling. We found that an individual’s susceptibility to the McGurk effect was related to their ability to extract place of articulation information from the visual signal (i.e., a more fine-grained analysis of lipreading ability), but not to scores on tasks measuring attentional control, processing speed, working memory capacity, or auditory perceptual gradiency. These results provide support for the claim that a small amount of the variability in susceptibility to the McGurk effect is attributable to lipreading skill. In contrast, cognitive and perceptual abilities that are commonly used predictors in individual differences studies do not appear to underlie susceptibility to the McGurk effect.