In three experiments, we addressed the issue of attention effects on unattended sound processing when one auditory stream is selected from three potential streams, creating a simple model of the cocktail party situation. We recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to determine the way in which unattended, task-irrelevant sounds were stored in auditory memory (i.e., as one integrated stream or as two distinct streams). Subjects were instructed to ignore all the sounds and attend to a visual task or to selectively attend to a subset of the sounds and perform a task with the sounds (Experiments 1 and 2). A third (behavioral) experiment was conducted to test whether global pattern violations (used in Experiments 1 and 2) were perceptible when the sounds were segregated. We found that the mismatch negativity ERP component, an index of auditory change detection, was evoked by infrequent pattern violations occurring in the unattended sounds when all the sounds were ignored, but not when attention was focused on a subset of the sounds. The results demonstrate that multiple unattended sound streams can segregate by frequency range but that selectively attending to a subset of the sounds can modify the extent to which the unattended sounds are processed. These results are consistent with models in animal and human studies showing that attentional control can limit the processing of unattended input in favor of attended sensory inputs, thereby facilitating the ability to achieve behavioral goals.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||18|
|Journal||Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience|
|State||Published - Mar 2005|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience