William S. Brown
Brookhaven Natl. Lab., Bldg. 130, Upton, NY 11973-5000
David S. Emmerich
State Univ. of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11974
Recent experiments have presented listeners with complex tonal stimuli consisting of components with values (i.e., intensities or frequencies) randomly sampled from probability distributions [e.g., R. A. Lutfi, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 86, 934--944 (1989)]. In the present experiment, brief tones were presented at intervals corresponding to the intensity of a random process. Specifically, the intervals between tones were randomly selected from exponential probability functions. Listeners were asked to decide whether tones presented during a defined observation interval represented a ``noise'' process alone or the ``noise'' with a ``signal'' process added to it. The number of tones occurring in any observation interval is a Poisson variable; receiver operating characteristics (ROCs) arising from Poisson processes have been considered by Egan [Signal Detection Theory and ROC Analysis (Academic, New York, 1975)]. Several sets of noise and signal intensities and observation interval durations were selected which were expected to yield equivalent performance. Rating ROCs were generated based on subjects' responses in a single-interval, yes--no task. The performance levels achieved by listeners and the effects of intensity and duration are compared to those predicted for an ideal observer.