Exploring auditory gist: Comprehension of two dichotic, simultaneously presented stories

Nandini Iyer, Eric R. Thompson*, Brian D. Simpson, Douglas Brungart, Van Summers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cherry (1953) showed that when listeners were asked to selectively attend to one ear in a dichotic listening task, they were able to identify gross attributes of the signal in the unattended ear, suggesting that listeners may be able to capture the 'gist' of an auditory stream even when they are asked to ignore it. This experiment explored the extraction of auditory 'gist' by investigating the amount and nature of semantic information stored in memory for later recall. In the experiment, listeners heard two dichotically-presented stories; they were directed to: 1) listen to one of two stories and answer yes-no questions about that story (Directed condition), 2) not directed (Undirected condition) and answer questions about one or both stories, and 3) listen to one of the stories and answer questions about the unattended story (Misdirected condition). Results suggest that listeners can recall the main ideas of both stories in the undirected attention condition significantly better than chance, but that their performance falls substantially below the level achieved in the directed attention condition. These findings are consistent with studies of visual gist processing, suggesting that global features, rather than details, are perceived even before attention is focused on the auditory streams.

Original languageEnglish
Article number050158
JournalProceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
StatePublished - 2013
Event21st International Congress on Acoustics, ICA 2013 - 165th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America - Montreal, QC, Canada
Duration: 2 Jun 20137 Jun 2013


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