Sequential grouping of pure-tone percepts evoked by the segregation of components from a complex tone

Nicholas R. Haywood, Brian Roberts

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A sudden change applied to a single component can cause its segregation from an ongoing complex tone as a pure-tone-like percept. Three experiments examined whether such pure-tone-like percepts are organized into streams by extending the research of Bregman and Rudnicky (1975). Those authors found that listeners struggled to identify the presentation order of 2 pure-tone targets of different frequency when they were flanked by 2 lower frequency “distractors.” Adding a series of matched-frequency “captor” tones, however, improved performance by pulling the distractors into a separate stream from the targets. In the current study, sequences of discrete pure tones were substituted by sequences of brief changes applied to an otherwise constant 1.2-s complex tone. Pure-tone-like percepts were evoked by applying 6-dB increments to individual components of a complex comprising harmonics 1–7 of 300 Hz (Experiment 1) or 0.5-ms changes in interaural time difference to individual components of a log-spaced complex (range 160–905 Hz; Experiment 2). Results were consistent with the earlier study, providing clear evidence that pure-tone-like percepts are organized into streams. Experiment 3 adapted Experiment 1 by presenting a global amplitude increment either synchronous with, or just after, the last captor prior to the 1st distractor. In the former case, for which there was no pure-tone-like percept corresponding to that captor, the captor sequence did not aid performance to the same extent as previously. It is concluded that this change to the captor-tone stream partially resets the stream-formation process, and so the distractors and targets became likely to integrate once more. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1263-1274
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology : Human Perception and Performance Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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