Although many researchers have examined the role that binaural cues play in the perception of spatially separated speech signals, relatively little is known about the cues that listeners use to segregate competing speech messages in a monaural or diotic stimulus. This series of experiments examined how variations in the relative levels and voice characteristics of the target and masking talkers influence a listener’s ability to extract information from a target phrase in a 3-talker or 4-talker diotic stimulus. Performance in this speech perception task decreased systematically when the level of the target talker was reduced relative to the masking talkers. Performance also generally decreased when the target and masking talkers had similar voice characteristics: the target phrase was most intelligible when the target and masking phrases were spoken by different-sex talkers, and least intelligible when the target and masking phrases were spoken by the same talker. However, when the target-to-masker ratio was less than 3 dB, overall performance was usually lower with one different-sex masker than with all same-sex maskers. In most of the conditions tested, the listeners performed better when they were exposed to the characteristics of the target voice prior to the presentation of the stimulus. The results of these experiments demonstrate how monaural factors may play an important role in the segregation of speech signals in multitalker environments.

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