The information-divergence hypothesis of informational masking

J Acoust Soc Am. 2013 Sep;134(3):2160-70. doi: 10.1121/1.4817875.


In recent years there has been growing interest in masking that cannot be attributed to interactions in the cochlea-so--called informational masking (IM). Similarity in the acoustic properties of target and masker and uncertainty regarding the masker are the two major factors identified with IM. These factors involve quite different manipulations of signals and are believed to entail fundamentally different processes resulting in IM. Here, however, evidence is presented that these factors affect IM through their mutual influence on a single factor-the information divergence of target and masker given by Simpson-Fitter's da [Lutfi et al. (2012). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 132, EL109-113]. Four experiments are described involving multitone pattern discrimination, multi-talker word recognition, sound-source identification, and sound localization. In each case standard manipulations of masker uncertainty and target-masker similarity (including the covariation of target-masker frequencies) are found to have the same effect on performance provided they produce the same change in da. The function relating d(') performance to da, moreover, appears to be linear with constant slope across listeners. The overriding dependence of IM on da is taken to reflect a general principle of perception that exploits differences in the statistical structure of signals to separate figure from ground.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Audiometry
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Noise / adverse effects
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Pitch Discrimination
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Sound Localization
  • Speech Perception
  • Time Factors
  • Uncertainty
  • Young Adult