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.
In our surrounding acoustic world sounds are produced by different sources and interfere with each other before arriving to the ears. A key function of the auditory system is to provide consistent and robust descriptions of the coherent sound groupings and sequences (auditory objects), which likely correspond to the various sound sources in the environment. This function has been termed auditory stream segregation. In the current study we tested the effects of separation in the frequency of amplitude modulation on the segregation of concurrent sound sequences in the auditory stream–segregation paradigm (van Noorden 1975). The aim of the study was to assess 1) whether differential amplitude modulation would help in separating concurrent sound sequences and 2) whether this cue would interact with previously studied static cues (carrier frequency and location difference) in segregating concurrent streams of sound. We found that amplitude modulation difference is utilized as a primary cue for the stream segregation and it interacts with other primary cues such as frequency and location difference.
The human auditory system is capable of grouping sounds originating from different sound sources into coherent auditory streams, a process termed auditory stream segregation. Several cues can influence auditory stream segregation, but the full set of cues and the way in which they are integrated is still unknown. In the current study, we tested whether auditory motion can serve as a cue for segregating sequences of tones. Our hypothesis was that, following the principle of common fate, sounds emitted by sources moving together in space along similar trajectories will be more likely to be grouped into a single auditory stream, while sounds emitted by independently moving sources will more often be heard as two streams. Stimuli were derived from sound recordings in which the sound source motion was induced by walking humans. Although the results showed a clear effect of spatial separation, auditory motion had a negligible influence on stream segregation. Hence, auditory motion may not be used as a primitive cue in auditory stream segregation.