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Percepts, not acoustic properties, are the units of auditory short-term memory

MPS-Authors

Mathias,  S. R.
Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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von Kriegstein,  Katharina
Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Mathias, S. R., & von Kriegstein, K. (2014). Percepts, not acoustic properties, are the units of auditory short-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(2), 445-450. doi:10.1037/a0034890.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-5F7F-B
Abstract
For decades, researchers have sought to understand the organizing principles of auditory and visual
short-term memory (STM). Previous work in audition has suggested that there are independent memory
stores for different sound features, but the nature of the representations retained within these stores is
currently unclear. Do they retain perceptual features, or do they instead retain representations of the
sound’s specific acoustic properties? In the present study we addressed this question by measuring
listeners’ abilities to keep one of three acoustic properties (interaural time difference [ITD], interaural
level difference [ILD], or frequency) in memory when the target sound was followed by interfering
sounds that varied randomly in one of the same properties. Critically, ITD and ILD evoked the same
percept (spatial location), despite being acoustically different and having different physiological corre-
lates, whereas frequency evoked a different percept (pitch). The results showed that listeners found it
difficult to remember the percept of spatial location when the interfering tones varied either in ITD or
ILD, but not when they varied in frequency. The study demonstrates that percepts are the units of auditory
STM, and provides testable predictions for future neuroscientific work on both auditory and visual STM.