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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



When presented with two identical sounds from different locations separated by a short onset asynchrony, listeners report hearing a single source at the location of the lead sound, a phenomenon called the precedence effect (Wallach et al., 1949; Haas, 1951). When the onset asynchrony is above echo threshold, listeners report hearing the lead and lag sounds as separate sources with distinct locations. Event-related potential (ERP) studies have shown that perception of separate sound sources is accompanied by an object-related negativity (ORN) 100-250 ms after onset and a late posterior positivity (LP) 300-500 ms after onset (Sanders et al., 2008; Sanders et al., 2011). The current study tested whether these ERP effects are modulated by attention. Clicks were presented in lead/lag pairs at and around listeners’ echo thresholds while in separate blocks they 1) attended to the sounds and reported if they heard the lag sound as a separate source, and 2) performed a difficult 2-back visual task. Replicating previous results, when attention was directed to the sounds, an ORN and LP were observed for click pairs 1 ms above compared to 1 ms below echo threshold. In contrast, when attention was directed away from the sounds to the visual task, neither the ORN nor the LP was evident. Instead, click pairs 1 ms above echo threshold elicited an anterior positivity 250-450 ms after onset. In addition, an effect resembling an ORN was found in comparing ERPs elicited by unattended click pairs with SOAs below attended echo threshold. These results indicate that attention modulates early perceptual processes in the precedence effect and may be critical for auditory object formation under these conditions.


First Advisor

Lisa D. Sanders