Echoic Memory In Primitive Auditory Selective Attention

Ben Weedon
Zofia Kaminska

Psychology Department, City University, London, EC1V 0HB


This study explored possible confounding effects of echoic memory on estimates of attentional capacity by attempting to estimate capacity while controlling the effect of echoic memory. Detection of a target stimulus and identification of its carrier stream was investigated as a function of variation in number of concurrent non-overlapping auditory streams (1 to 4) and of condition of echoic memory involvement (available or eliminated via articulatory suppression). Error rates were found to increase non-linearly as a function of number of streams, but with a different point of discontinuity - indicative of a processing limitation - under different conditions of memory involvement, a higher capacity (3 as opposed to 2 streams) being achieved with echoic memory contribution. Detection response latencies also increased as a function of number of streams, but the increases were linear. Echoic memory also significantly reduced the response latency. These findings, which implicate echoic memory as a contributory factor in estimates of auditory attention, may help to resolve discrepancies in previous research and have implications for modeling auditory attentional processes.

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