Informational masking of speech depends on masker spectro-temporal variation but not on its coherence

Brian Roberts*, Robert Summers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of an extraneous formant on intelligibility is affected by the extent (depth) of variation in its formant-frequency contour. Two experiments explored whether this impact also depends on masker spectro-temporal coherence, using a method ensuring that interference occurred only through informational masking. Targets were monaural three-formant analogues (F1+F2+F3) of natural sentences presented alone or accompanied by a contralateral competitor for F2 (F2C) that listeners must reject to optimize recognition. The standard F2C was created using the inverted F2 frequency contour and constant amplitude. Variants were derived by dividing F2C into abutting segments (100–200 ms, 10-ms rise/fall). Segments were presented either in the correct order (coherent) or in random order (incoherent), introducing abrupt discontinuities into the F2C frequency contour. F2C depth was also manipulated (0%, 50%, or 100%) prior to segmentation, and the frequency contour of each segment either remained time-varying or was set to constant at the geometric mean frequency of that segment. The extent to which F2C lowered keyword scores depended on segment type (frequency-varying vs constant) and depth, but not segment order. This outcome indicates that the impact on intelligibility depends critically on the overall amount of frequency variation in the competitor, but not its spectro-temporal coherence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2416
Pages (from-to)2416-2428
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Author(s). All article content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (

Funding: This research was supported by Research Grant Nos.
ES/K004905/1 (experiment 1) and ES/N014383/1
(experiment 2) from the Economic and Social Research
Council (UK), awarded to B.R


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