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The Effect of Auditory Memory on the Perception of Timbre

Listeners are more sensitive to timbral differences when comparing stimuli side-by-side than temporally-separated. The contributions of auditory memory and spectral compensation to this effect are unclear. A listening test examined the role of auditory memory in timbral discrimination, across retention intervals (RIs) of up to 40 s. For timbrally complex music stimuli discrimination accuracy was good across all RIs, but there was increased sensitivity to onset spectrum, which decreased with increasing RI. Noise stimuli showed no onset sensitivity but discrimination performance declined with RIs of 40 s. The difference between program types may suggest different onset sensitivity and memory encoding (categorical vs non-categorical). The onset bias suggests that memory effects should be measured prior to future investigation of spectral compensation.

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