Cueing listeners to attend to a target talker progressively improves word report as the duration of the cue-target interval lengthens to 2000 ms

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DateAccepted/In press - 16 Jan 2018
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Endogenous attention is typically studied by presenting instructive cues in advance of a target stimulus array. For endogenous visual attention, task performance improves as the duration of the cue-target interval increases up to 800 ms. Less is known about how endogenous auditory attention unfolds over time or the mechanisms by which an instructive cue presented in advance of an auditory array improves performance. The current experiment used five cue-target intervals (0, 250, 500, 1000, and 2000 ms) to compare four hypotheses for how preparatory attention develops over time in a multi-talker listening task. Young adults were cued to attend to a target talker who spoke in a mixture of three talkers. Visual cues indicated the target talker’s spatial location or their gender. Participants directed attention to location and gender simultaneously (‘objects’) at all cue-target intervals. Participants were consistently faster and more accurate at reporting words spoken by the target talker when the cue-target interval was 2000 ms than 0 ms. In addition, the latency of correct responses progressively shortened as the duration of the cue-target interval increased from 0 to 2000 ms. These findings suggest that the mechanisms involved in preparatory auditory attention develop gradually over time, taking at least 2000 ms to reach optimal configuration, yet providing cumulative improvements in speech intelligibility as the duration of the cue-target interval increases from 0 to 2000 ms. These results demonstrate an improvement in performance for cue-target intervals longer than those that have been reported previously in the visual or auditory modalities.

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