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Re: By any other name...

I think the "most likely" in your second paragraph is the crucial point. If objective methods cannot prove the absence of the signal, then I would argue that the signal is in fact present. Is an objective proof of signal absence typically presented in studies of the auditory continuity effect?


I'd say that is exactly the reason why the masked sound appears to continue throughout the duration of the masker. The brain has no evidence to assume the attended sound actually ceased. From the same philosophical point of view you would have to assume the effect can only persist for as long as the attended signal is, at least to some degree, predictable, e.g. on a time scale of phonemes for speech sounds and in music probably related to meter.

Of course a microphone and some signal processing would most likely be able to prove that the sound was absent from the acoustic signal. (Un)fortunately, the brain doesn't have access to the acoustic signal directly.

Coincidentally, the quote from Lewis Carroll in the signature below appears very appropriate for this discussion (especially if you care to remain in a philosophical mood for a little longer).


Erik Larsen
PhD candidate Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology

"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be, and
if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't.  That's logic!"
		-- Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"

Bruno Repp wrote:
Dear Richard:

There is a philosophical (or methodological?) problem I've had with this effect for a long time: If, as you say, "the interrupting louder sound stimulates the same peripheral receptors that would have been stimulated if the sound had indeed been present", what proves that the sound is actually absent?


Bruno H. Repp
Haskins Laboratories
300 George Street
New Haven, CT 06511-6624
Tel. (203) 865-6163, ext. 236
Fax (203) 865-8963

NOTE: I am at Rutgers University, Newark, two days each week,
usually Wednesday and Friday, and don't read my
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