Effects of location, frequency region, and time course of selective attention on auditory scene analysis

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2004 Aug;30(4):643-56. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.30.4.643.


Often, the sound arriving at the ears is a mixture from many different sources, but only 1 is of interest. To assist with selection, the auditory system structures the incoming input into streams, each of which ideally corresponds to a single source. Some authors have argued that this process of streaming is automatic and invariant, but recent evidence suggests it is affected by attention. In Experiments 1 and 2, it is shown that the effect of attention is not a general suppression of streaming on an unattended side of the ascending auditory pathway or in unattended frequency regions. Experiments 3 and 4 investigate the effect on streaming of physical gaps in the sequence and of brief switches in attention away from a sequence. The results demonstrate that after even short gaps or brief switches in attention, streaming is reset. The implications are discussed, and a hierarchical decomposition model is proposed.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Periodicity*
  • Sound Localization*
  • Time Factors