The role of attention in the formation of auditory streams

Percept Psychophys. 2007 Jan;69(1):136-52. doi: 10.3758/bf03194460.


There is controversy over whether stream segregation is an attention-dependent process. Part of the argument is related to the initial formation of auditory streams. It has been suggested that attention is needed only to form the streams, but not to maintain them once they have been segregated. The question of whether covert attention at the beginning of a to-be-ignored set of sounds will be enough to initiate the segregation process remains open. Here, we investigate this question by (1) using a methodology that does not require the participant to make an overt response to assess how the unattended sounds are organized and (2) structuring the test sound sequence to account for the covert attention explanation. The results of four experiments provide evidence to support the view that attention is not always required for the formation of auditory streams.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loudness Perception / physiology
  • Male
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Speech Perception / physiology