Strategies used to detect auditory signals in small sets of random maskers

Beverly A. Wright*, Kourosh Saberi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Detection performance for a masked auditory signal of fixed frequency can be substantially degraded if there is uncertainty about the frequency content of the masker. A quasimolecular psychophysical approach was used to examine response strategies in masker-uncertainty conditions, and to investigate the influence of uncertainty when the number of different masker samples was limited to ten or fewer. The task of the four listeners was to detect a 1000-Hz signal that was presented simultaneously with one of ten ten-tone masker samples. The masker sample was either fixed throughout a block of two-interval forced-choice trials or was randomized across or within trials. The primary results showed that: (1) When the signal level was low and the masker sample differed between the two intervals of a trial, most listeners based their responses more on the presence of specific masker samples than on the signal. (2) The detrimental effect of masker uncertainty was clearly evident when only four maskers were randomly presented, and grew as the size of the masker set was increased from two to ten. (3) The slopes of psychometric functions measured with the same masker samples differed among the fixed and two random-masker conditions. (4) There were large differences in the influence of masker uncertainty across masker samples and listeners. These data demonstrate the great susceptibility of human listeners to the influence of masker uncertainty and the ability of quasimolecular investigations to reveal important aspects of behavior in uncertainty condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1765-1775
Number of pages11
Journaljournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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