Context effects in the discriminability of spatial cues

Julia Kerstin Maier, David McAlpine, Georg M. Klump, Daniel Pressnitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In order to investigate whether performance in an auditory spatial discrimination task depends on the prevailing listening conditions, we tested the ability of human listeners to discriminate target sounds with and without presentation of a preceding sound. Target sounds were either lateralized by means of interaural time differences (ITDs) of +400, 0, or -400 μs or interaural level differences (ILDs) with the same subjective intracranial locations. The preceding sound was always lateralized by means of ITD. This allowed for testing whether the effects of a preceding sound were location- or cue-specific. Preceding sounds and target sounds were randomly paired across trials. Listeners had to discriminate whether they perceived the target sounds as coming from the same or different intracranial locations. Finally, stimuli were selected so that, without any preceding sound, ITD and ILD cues were equally discriminable at all target lateralizations. Stimuli were 800 Hz-wide, 400-ms duration bands of noise centered at 500 Hz, presented over headphones. The duration of the preceding sound was randomly selected from a uniform distribution spanning from 1s to 2s. Results show that discriminability of both binaural cues was improved for midline target positions when preceding sound and targets were co-located, whereas it was impaired when preceding sound and targets came from different positions. No effect of the preceding sound was found for left or right target positions. These results are compatible with a purely bottom-up mechanism based on adaptive coding of ITD around the midline that may be combined with top-down mechanisms to increase localization accuracy in realistic listening conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-328
Number of pages10
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory
  • Binaural adaptation
  • Human
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound localization


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