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Feature Predictability Flexibly Supports Auditory Stream Segregation or Integration

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Many sound sources emit series of discrete sounds. Auditory perception must bind these sounds together (stream integration) while separating them from sounds emitted by other sources (stream segregation). One cue for identifying successive sounds that belong together is the predictability between their feature values. Previous studies have demonstrated that independent predictable patterns appearing separately in two interleaved sound sequences support perceptual segregation. The converse case, whether a joint predictable pattern in a mixture of interleaved sequences supports perceptual integration, has not yet been put to a rigorous empirical test. This was mainly due to difficulties in manipulating the predictability of the full sequence independently of the predictability of the interleaved subsequences. The present study implemented such an independent manipulation. Listeners continuously indicated whether they perceived a tone sequence as integrated or segregated, while predictable patterns set up to support one or the other percept were manipulated without the participants' knowledge. Perceptual reports demonstrate that predictability supports stream segregation or integration depending on the type of predictable pattern that is present in the sequence. The effects of predictability were so pronounced as to qualitatively flip perception from predominantly (62%) integrated to predominantly (73%) segregated. These results suggest that auditory perception flexibly responds to encountered regular patterns, favoring predictable perceptual organizations over unpredictable ones. Besides underlining the role of predictability as a cue within auditory scene analysis, the present design also provides a general framework that accommodates previous investigations focusing on sub-comparisons within the present set of experimental manipulations. Results of intermediate conditions shed light on why some previous studies have obtained little to no effects of predictability on auditory scene analysis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2014

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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