Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 399–405

Binaural integration of melodic patterns

  • Diana Deutsch

DOI: 10.3758/BF03199848

Cite this article as:
Deutsch, D. Perception & Psychophysics (1979) 25: 399. doi:10.3758/BF03199848


It has been argued that there is a limit to the rate at which we can switch attention between ears in monitoring auditory information. Listeners identified melodic configurations formed by rapid sequences of tones. When these sequences were presented binaurally, excellent performance was obtained. Yet when the component tones of the melody were distributed between the ears, performance was largely nullified when a drone (i.e., a lower constantfrequency tone) was presented to the ear opposite that receiving the melody component. This improvement in performance cannot be attributed to processing the harmonic relationships between melody and drone, since when, instead, the drone was presented to the same ear as the melody component, performance was at chance. Onset-offset asynchronies between the drone and melody components resulted in performance levels between those where the drone and melody components were synchronous and those where the melody switched between ears without an accompanying drone. It is argued that difficulties in binaural integration are due not to processing limitations, but to a mechanism that is invoked under certain conditions to prevent confusion in monitoring individual sound sources.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Deutsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Human Information Processing, Department of Psychology, C-009University of California at San DiegoLa Jolla