Is attention shared between the ears?

Richard M. Sniffrin, David B. Pisoni, Kicab Castaneda-Mendez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


This study tests the locus of attention during selective listening for speech-like stimuli. Can processing be differentially allocated to the two ears? Two conditions were used. The simultaneous condition involved one of four randomly chosen stop-consonants being presented to one of the ears chosen at random. The sequential condition involved two intervals; in the first S listened to the right ear; in the second S listened to the left ear. One of the four consonants was presented to an attended ear during one of these intervals. Experiment I used no distracting stimuli. Experiment II utilized a distracting consonant not confusable with any of the four target consonants. This distractor was always presented to any ear not containing a target. In both experiments, simultaneous and sequential performance were essentially identical, despite the need for attention sharing between the two ears during the simultaneous condition. We conclude that selective attention does not occur during perceptual processing of speech sounds presented to the two ears. We suggest that attentive effects arise in short-term memory following processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-215
Number of pages26
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1974

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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