Selective and divided attention: Extracting information from simultaneous sound sources
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The way in which sounds interact and interfere with each other (both acoustically and perceptually) has an important influence on how well an auditory display can convey information. While spatial separation of simultaneous sound sources has been shown to be very effective when a listener must report the content of one source and ignore another source (a condition known as selective attention), little is known about how spatial separation influences performance in divided-attention tasks, i.e., tasks in which the listener must report the content of more than one simultaneous source. This paper reports preliminary results from a pilot study investigating how perceived spatial separation of sources and consistency in source locations influences performance on selective- and divided-attention tasks. Results demonstrate that 1) in both selective- and divided-attention tasks, overall performance is generally better when sources are perceived at different locations than when they are perceived at the same location; 2) in both selective- and divided-attention tasks, randomly changing the perceived source locations from trial to trial tends to degrade performance compared to conditions where the source locations are fixed; and 3) both of the above effects are larger for selective-attention tasks than dividedattention tasks.