When competing sources come from different directions, a desired target is easier to hear than when the sources are co-located. How much of this improvement is the result of spatial attention rather than improved perceptual segregation of the competing sources is not well understood. Here, listeners' attention was directed to spatial or nonspatial cues when they listened for a target masked by a competing message. A preceding cue signaled the target timbre, location, or both timbre and location. Spatial separation improved performance when the cue indicated the target location, or both the location and timbre, but not when the cue only indicated the target timbre. However, response errors were influenced by spatial configuration in all conditions. Both attention and streaming contributed to spatial effects when listeners actively attended to location. In contrast, when attention was directed to a nonspatial cue, spatial separation primarily appeared to improve the streaming of auditory objects across time. Thus, when attention is focused on location, spatial separation appears to improve both object selection and object formation; when attention is directed to nonspatial cues, separation affects object formation. These results highlight the need to distinguish between these separate mechanisms when considering how observers cope with complex auditory scenes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics