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Re: ACTIVE listening concerns


I believe that you are making two distinctions.  The first is between a
brief detection task and a sustained attention task such as following a
musical line or a sentence.  The second is between a "selective" attention
task (reporting the contents of one auditory stream) and a "divided"
attention task (reporting the contents of both streams).   While both
sustained and divided attention have been studied extensively (contact me
off-list for references if you wish), you are correct that there is less
research on sustained divided attention to multiple inputs.  One of the
exceptions in a researcher named Christopher Wickens, who has a book called
"Engineering Psychology and Human Performance" published in 1992.  I
believe there is a 1999 update but I haven't read it.

Wickens has studied attentional "vigilance" in an attempt to understand
workplace issues.  For example, the quality assurance engineer looking for
manufacturing errors may need to attend to hours and hours of identical
products before finding a flaw.  What does the attention function look like
in such cases?  What about when attention is divided between two
tasks?  When the tasks are similar there is interference, but when they are
different sometimes there is no interference.  Obviously, the resources
required for performing the task (memory, sensory input system, response
output, etc.) will have a large impact on the results.  This has led
Wickens to propose the "multiple resource" model of attention.  His work is
reviewed clearly in the book and is probably the closest I know to the
question you are asking.  Of course, there is much more to be done on the
issue.  For example, you seem to be interested in the physiology of how a
listener switches between inputs voluntarily.  Designing a controlled
experiment that examines that question would be a serious undertaking.

Good luck!

Erick Gallun
Postdoc, Hearing Research Center
Boston University

At 02:29 AM 9/1/2004 -0700, Matt Marble wrote:
I have found a lot of information regarding auditory attention (i.e. a sound
'catching' one's attention) but very little on the joint effort, occurrences
of the ear and the mind during ACTIVE listening.