Three experiments investigated the dynamics of auditory stream segregation. Experiment 1 used a 2.0-s constant-frequency inducer (10 repetitions of a low-frequency pure tone) to promote segregation in a subsequent, 1.2-s test sequence of alternating low- and high-frequency tones. Replacing the final inducer tone with silence reduced reported test-sequence segregation substantially. This reduction did not occur when either the 4th or 7th inducer was replaced with silence. This suggests that a change at the induction/test-sequence boundary actively resets build-up, rather than less segregation occurring simply because fewer inducer tones were presented. Furthermore, Experiment 2 found that a constant-frequency inducer produced its maximum segregation-promoting effect after only 3 tone cycles − this contrasts with the more gradual build-up typically observed for alternating sequences. Experiment 3 required listeners to judge continuously the grouping of 20-s test sequences. Constant-frequency inducers were considerably more effective at promoting segregation than alternating ones; this difference persisted for ~10 s. In addition, resetting arising from a single deviant (longer tone) was associated only with constant-frequency inducers. Overall, the results suggest that constant-frequency inducers promote segregation by capturing one subset of test-sequence tones into an on-going, pre-established stream and that a deviant tone may reduce segregation by disrupting this capture.

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