When investigating auditory short-term memory a common experimental task is to present a participant with a target tone followed by a comparison tone. The participant then has to decide if the two tones are the same or different pitch. Performance in this type of task is generally very good. However, if additional tones are placed between the target tone and the comparison tone then performance deteriorates markedly. Typically, success or failure in these tasks is attributed to specific memory stores (e.g. a pitch memory store) and memory processes that affect these stores (e.g. interference or decay). However, such findings can be re-interpreted as resulting from a process whereby the tones are perceptually grouped in to auditory objects. If the target tone becomes perceptually grouped with the additional tones (i.e. it becomes part of an auditory object comprised of several tones) then the memory task is requiring a comparison between an auditory object comprised of one tone and an auditory object comprised of multiple tones. The memory cost actually occurs because it is no longer a simple comparison between two tones, but a more complex memory task, requiring the extraction and isolation of the target tone from a larger auditory object.
My research will explore how auditory stimuli are perceptually organised and the role that this organisation plays when engaging in short-term memory tasks. I will aim to provide a detailed account of auditory short-term memory that doesn’t rely on memory stores and processes such as interference and decay, but instead, focusses on a more dynamic and object oriented approach to auditory short-term memory.