Informational masking and auditory attention

Marjorie R. Leek, Mary E. Brown, Michael Dorman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    87 Scopus citations


    Informational masking is broadly defined as a degradation of auditory detection or discrimination of a signal embedded ina context of other similar sounds; it is not related to energetic masking caused by physical interactions between signal and masker. In this paper, we report a systematic release from informational masking of a target tone in anine-tone rapid auditory sequence as the target is increasingly isolated in frequency or intensity from the remaieining sequence components. Improved target-tone frequency difference limens as isolation increases are interpreted as a reflection of increasingly focused auditory attention. The change from diffuse to highly focused attention is gradual over the frequency and intensity ranges examined, with each 1-dB increment in target intensity relative to the remaining components producing performance improvements equivalent to those produced by a 2% increase in frequency isolation. The results are modeled as bands of attention in the frequency and intensity domains. For attention directed by frequency isolation, there is a strong correspondence with auditory filters predicted by the power spectrum model of masking. These data also support the existence of an attention band of intensity, with a bandwidth of about 5-7 dB at the moderate levels used in this experiment.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)205-214
    Number of pages10
    JournalPerception & Psychophysics
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - May 1991

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Sensory Systems
    • General Psychology


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