INFORMATIONAL MASKING: HOW COMPETING SPEECH INTERFERES WITHSPEECH COMPREHENSION
Listeners often complain that they have trouble following a conversation when the environment is noisy. The environment could be noisy because of the presence of other unrelatedbut meaningful conversations, or because of the presence of less meaningful sound sources suchas ventilation noise. Both kinds of distracting sound sources produce interference at the auditoryperiphery (activate similar regions along the basilar membrane), and this kind of interferenceis called energetic masking. However, in addition to energetic masking, the meaningful soundsources can and do interfere with the processing of the target speech at more central levels(phonetic and/or semantic), and this kind of interference is called informational masking. In thistheme session, we will explore how we can use psychophysical techniques to distinguish betweenenergetic and informational masking and to identify the perceptual (bottom-up) and cognitive(top-down) factors that can release a listener from informational masking.