, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1-14

Auditory attention and the representation of spatial information

Abstract

Three experiments were carried out to investigate the spatial properties of auditory attention. If auditory spatial information is represented analogically, then shifts of auditory attention should be constrained by the spatial structure of the representation. In particular, the time taken to shift auditory attention should increase with the distance moved. As predicted, the time for attention shifts was a linearly increasing function of the angular distance moved, for distances up to 90°. Moreover, the rate at which attention was shifted appeared to depend on the capacity available, which in turn depended on task difficulty (Experiment 1 vs. Experiment 2) and memory load (Experiment 3). Explanations based on general expectancies or response priming were ruled out. The results suggest that auditory spatial information, like visual spatial information, is represented analogically, and that this structure constrains the way that attention can be moved within the representation.

This work was supported by NSF Grant BNS 80-05517 to Roger Shepard.