Informational masking caused by contralateral stimulation

Gerald Kidd*, Christine R. Mason, Tanya L. Arbogast, Douglas S. Brungart, Brian D. Simpson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Although informational masking is thought to reflect central mechanisms, the effects are generally much stronger when the target and masker are presented to the same ear than when they are presented to different ears. However, the results of a recent study by Brungart and Simpson [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 112, 2985-2995 (2002)] indicated that a speech masker that is presented contralateral to a speech signal can produce substantial amounts of informational masking when a second speech masker is played simultaneously in the same ear as the signal. In this study, we conducted a series of experiments that paralleled those of Brungart and Simpson but used a pure-tone signal and multitone informational maskers in a detection task. Both the signal and the maskers were played as sequences of short bursts in each observation interval. The maskers were arranged in two types of spectrotemporal patterns. One type of pattern, called "multiple-bursts same" (MBS), has previously been shown to produce very large amounts of informational masking while the other type of pattern, called "multiple-bursts different" (MBD), has been shown to produce very small amounts of informational masking. Several conditions of ipsilateral, contralateral, and combined presentation of these maskers were tested. The results showed that presentation of the MBS masker in the contralateral ear produced a substantial amount of informational masking when the MBD masker was simultaneously presented to the ipsilateral ear. The results supported the earlier findings of Brungart and Simpson indicating that listeners are unable to selectively focus their attention on a single ear in some complex dichotic listening conditions. These results suggest that this contralateral masking effect is not restricted to speech and may reflect more general limitations on processing capacity. Further, it was concluded that the magnitude of the contralateral masking effect was related both to the informational masking value of the contralateral masker and the complexity of the stimulus and/or task in the ear in which the signal was presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1594-1603
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


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