Resolution of multiple talkers in a “cocktail party” depends on head movements
How we resolve and select single voices out of a complex auditory scene is a foundational problem in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology: this is known as the cocktail party problem. In discovering the computational mechanisms by which we resolve spatially distinct sounds, we find that binaural sound localization cues can lead to a front-back ambiguity. Head movements may be critical in resolving these ambiguities. We developed a simple listening task in which participants count the number of distinct voices they hear in a front-field complex auditory scene – with and without head rotations. We found that there was an increase in performance for those listeners using head rotations. We further tested the front-back ambiguities by using the same listening task with talkers in both front and back-fields. This novel listening task allowed us to further test mechanisms of auditory scene analysis that determine the resolution of spatial auditory attention.
* Indicates faculty mentor