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The auditory two-tone streaming paradigm has been used extensively to study the mechanisms that underlie the decomposition of the auditory input into coherent sound sequences. Using longer tone sequences than usual in the literature, we show that listeners hold their first percept of the sound sequence for a relatively long period, after which perception switches between two or more alternative sound organizations, each held on average for a much shorter duration. The first percept also differs from subsequent ones in that stimulus parameters influence its quality and duration to a far greater degree than the subsequent ones. We propose an account of auditory streaming in terms of rivalry between competing temporal associations based on two sets of processes. The formation of associations (discovery of alternative interpretations) mainly affects the first percept by determining which sound group is discovered first and how long it takes for alternative groups to be established. In contrast, subsequent percepts arise from stochastic switching between the alternatives, the dynamics of which are determined by competitive interactions between the set of coexisting interpretations.

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Learning & Perception
Authors: Alexandra Bendixen, Tamás M. Bőhm, Orsolya Szalárdy, Robert Mill, Susan L. Denham, and István Winkler

Sound sources often emit trains of discrete sounds, such as a series of footsteps. Previously, two different principles have been suggested for how the human auditory system binds discrete sounds together into perceptual units. The feature similarity principle is based on linking sounds with similar characteristics over time. The predictability principle is based on linking sounds that follow each other in a predictable manner. The present study compared the effects of these two principles. Participants were presented with tone sequences and instructed to continuously indicate whether they perceived a single coherent sequence or two concurrent streams of sound. We investigated the influence of separate manipulations of similarity and predictability on these perceptual reports. Both grouping principles affected perception of the tone sequences, albeit with different characteristics. In particular, results suggest that whereas predictability is only analyzed for the currently perceived sound organization, feature similarity is also analyzed for alternative groupings of sound. Moreover, changing similarity or predictability within an ongoing sound sequence led to markedly different dynamic effects. Taken together, these results provide evidence for different roles of similarity and predictability in auditory scene analysis, suggesting that forming auditory stream representations and competition between alternatives rely on partly different processes.

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–73. Sterzer, P. and Rees, G. (2008): A neural basis for percept stabilization in binocular rivalry. Journal of cognitive neuroscience , 20 (3), 389–99. Suzuki, S. and Grabowecky, M. (2007): Long-term speeding in perceptual switches

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