Cross-modal attentional entrainment: Insights from magicians

Anthony S. Barnhart, Mandy J. Ehlert, Stephen Goldinger, Alison D. Mackey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Recently, performance magic has become a source of insight into the processes underlying awareness. Magicians have highlighted a set of variables that can create moments of visual attentional suppression, which they call “off-beats.” One of these variables is akin to the phenomenon psychologists know as attentional entrainment. The current experiments, inspired by performance magic, explore the extent to which entrainment can occur across sensory modalities. Across two experiments using a difficult dot probe detection task, we find that the mere presence of an auditory rhythm can bias when visual attention is deployed, speeding responses to stimuli appearing in phase with the rhythm. However, the extent of this cross-modal influence is moderated by factors such as the speed of the entrainers and whether their frequency is increasing or decreasing. In Experiment 1, entrainment occurred for rhythms presented at.67 Hz, but not at 1.5 Hz. In Experiment 2, entrainment only occurred for rhythms that were slowing from 1.5 Hz to.67 Hz, not speeding. The results of these experiments challenge current models of temporal attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1240-1249
Number of pages10
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Attention
  • Cross-modal
  • Entrainment
  • Magic
  • Rhythm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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