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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2013 Apr;75(3):603-13. doi: 10.3758/s13414-012-0420-y.

Spatial inattention abolishes voice adaptation.

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Department for General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Psychology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Am Steiger 3, Haus 1, D-07743 Jena, Germany.


Adaptation to male voices causes a subsequent voice to be perceived as more female, and vice versa. Similar contrastive aftereffects have been reported for phonetic perception, and in vision for face perception. However, while aftereffects in the perception of phonetic features of speech have been reported to persist even when adaptors were processed inattentively, face aftereffects were previously reported to be abolished by inattention to adaptors. Here we demonstrate that auditory aftereffects of adaptation to voice gender are eliminated when the male and female adaptor voices are spatially unattended. Participants simultaneously heard gender-specific male or female adaptor voices in one ear and gender-neutral (androgynous) adaptor voices in the contralateral ear. They selectively attended to the adaptor voices in a designated ear, by either classifying voice gender (Exp. 1) or spoken syllable (Exp. 2). Voice aftereffects were found only if the gender-specific voices were spatially attended, suggesting capacity limits in the processing of voice gender for the unattended ear. Remarkably, gender-specific adaptors in the attended ear elicited comparable aftereffects in test voices, regardless of prior attention to voice gender or phonetic content. Thus, within the attended ear, voice gender was processed even when it was irrelevant for the task at hand, suggesting automatic processing of gender along with linguistic information. Overall, voice gender adaptation requires spatial, but not dimensional, selective attention.

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