Build-up and resetting of auditory stream segregation in quiet and in complex-tone backgrounds

  • Nicholas R. Haywood

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Thirteen experiments investigated the dynamics of stream segregation. Experiments 1-6b used a similar method, where a same-frequency induction sequence (usually 10 repetitions of an identical pure tone) promoted segregation in a subsequent, briefer test sequence (of alternating low- and high-frequency tones). Experiments 1-2 measured streaming using a direct report of perception and a temporal-discrimination task, respectively. Creating a single deviant by altering the final inducer (e.g. in level or replacement with silence) reduced segregation, often substantially. As the prior inducers remained unaltered, it is proposed that the single change actively reset build-up. The extent of resetting varied gradually with the size of a frequency change, once noticeable (experiments 3a-3b). By manipulating the serial position of a change, experiments 4a-4b demonstrated that resetting only occurred when the final inducer was replaced with silence, as build-up is very rapid during a same-frequency induction sequence. Therefore, the observed resetting cannot be explained by fewer inducers being presented. Experiment 5 showed that resetting caused by a single deviant did not increase when prior inducers were made unpredictable in frequency (four-semitone range). Experiments 6a-6b demonstrated that actual and perceived continuity have a similar effect on subsequent streaming judgements promoting either integration or segregation, depending on listening context. Experiment 7 found that same-frequency inducers were considerably more effective at promoting segregation than an alternating-frequency inducer, and that a trend for deviant-tone resetting was only apparent for the same-frequency case. Using temporal-order judgments, experiments 8-9 demonstrated the stream segregation of pure-tone-like percepts, evoked by sudden changes in amplitude or interaural time difference for individual components of a complex tone, Active resetting was observed
when a deviant was inserted into a sequence of these percepts (Experiment 10). Overall, these experiments offer new insight into the segregation-promotIng effect of induction sequences, and the factors which can reset this effect.
Date of AwardAug 2009
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrian Roberts (Supervisor)


  • auditory perception
  • scene analysis
  • deviant tone
  • attention
  • perceived continuity

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