Auditory attention

Charles Spence and Valerio Santangelo

in Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: Hearing

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199233557
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Auditory attention

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



This article focuses on the phenomenon of auditory attention. It briefly reviews the key empirical findings to have emerged from studies of auditory selective attention over the last fifty years or so. It also highlights recent evidence demonstrating the connection between selective attention and working memory. Following this, it reviews a number of the models and theories (both cognitive and neuroscientific) that have been put forward in order to explain how selective attention operates in audition. Finally, it throws light on the fact that the research reviewed in this article suggests that the awareness of the various stimuli in more complex auditory environments is far sparser than the everyday intuitions would lead one to believe. Indeed, the latest research on the phenomenon of auditory change deafness unequivocally shows that in the absence of attention, people simply have no conscious awareness of the majority of the auditory stimuli around them.

Keywords: auditory attention; selective attention; working memory; complex auditory environments; stimuli

Article.  11031 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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