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J Acoust Soc Am. 2018 Oct;144(4):2178. doi: 10.1121/1.5058684.

Perceptual grouping in the cocktail party: Contributions of voice-feature continuity.

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International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS), Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Pavillon 1420 Boulevard Mont-Royal, Outremont, Quebec, H2V 4P3, Canada.
Neurocognition, Neurocomputation and Neurogenetics (n3) Division, Yale University School of Medicine, 40 Temple Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, Maria-Goeppert-Straße 9a, D-23562 Lübeck, Germany.


Cocktail parties pose a difficult yet solvable problem for the auditory system. Previous work has shown that the cocktail-party problem is considerably easier when all sounds in the target stream are spoken by the same talker (the voice-continuity benefit). The present study investigated the contributions of two of the most salient voice features-glottal-pulse rate (GPR) and vocal-tract length (VTL)-to the voice-continuity benefit. Twenty young, normal-hearing listeners participated in two experiments. On each trial, listeners heard concurrent sequences of spoken digits from three different spatial locations and reported the digits coming from a target location. Critically, across conditions, GPR and VTL either remained constant or varied across target digits. Additionally, across experiments, the target location either remained constant (Experiment 1) or varied (Experiment 2) within a trial. In Experiment 1, listeners benefited from continuity in either voice feature, but VTL continuity was more helpful than GPR continuity. In Experiment 2, spatial discontinuity greatly hindered listeners' abilities to exploit continuity in GPR and VTL. The present results suggest that selective attention benefits from continuity in target voice features and that VTL and GPR play different roles for perceptual grouping and stream segregation in the cocktail party.


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