The perceptual organization of sine-wave speech under competitive conditions

Brian Roberts, Robert J. Summers, Peter J. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Speech comprises dynamic and heterogeneous acoustic elements, yet it is heard as a single perceptual stream even when accompanied by other sounds. The relative contributions of grouping “primitives” and of speech-specific grouping factors to the perceptual coherence of speech are unclear, and the acoustical correlates of the latter remain unspecified. The parametric manipulations possible with simplified speech signals, such as sine-wave analogues, make them attractive stimuli to explore these issues. Given that the factors governing perceptual organization are generally revealed only where competition operates, the second-formant competitor (F2C) paradigm was used, in which the listener must resist competition to optimize recognition [Remez et al., Psychol. Rev. 101, 129-156 (1994)]. Three-formant (F1+F2+F3) sine-wave analogues were derived from natural sentences and presented dichotically (one ear = F1+F2C+F3; opposite ear = F2). Different versions of F2C were derived from F2 using separate manipulations of its amplitude and frequency contours. F2Cs with time-varying frequency contours were highly effective competitors, regardless of their amplitude characteristics. In contrast, F2Cs with constant frequency contours were completely ineffective. Competitor efficacy was not due to energetic masking of F3 by F2C. These findings indicate that modulation of the frequency, but not the amplitude, contour is critical for across-formant grouping.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-817
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010
Event157th Meeting of Acoustical Society of America - Portland, United States
Duration: 18 May 200922 May 2009


  • speech
  • acoustic elements
  • single perceptual stream
  • parametric manipulations
  • second-formant competitor paradigm


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