Sequential stream segregation in the absence of spectral cues

Joyce Vliegen, Andrew J. Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the cues used by the auditory system in the perceptual organization of sequential sounds. In particular, the ability to organize sounds in the absence of spectral cues is studied. In the first experiment listeners were presented with a tone sequence ABA ABA... where the fundamental frequency (f0) of tone A was fixed at 100 Hz and the f0 difference between tones A and B varied across trials between 1 and 11 semitones. Three spectral conditions were tested: pure tones, harmonic complexes filtered with a bandpass region between 500 and 2000 HZ, and harmonic complexes filtered with a bandpass region chosen so that only harmonics above the tenth would be passed by the filter, thus severely limiting spectral information. Listeners generally reported that they could segregate tones A and B into two separate perceptual streams when the f0 interval exceeded about four semitones. This was true for all conditions. The second experiment showed that most listeners were better able to recognize a short atonal melody interleaved with random distracting tones when the distracting tones were in an f0 region 11 semitones higher than the melody than when the distracting tones were in the same f0 region. The results were similar for both pure tones and complex tones comprising only high, unresolved harmonics. The results from both experiments show that spectral separation is not a necessary condition for perceptual stream segregation. This suggests that models of stream segregation that are based solely on spectral properties may require some revision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-346
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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