TitleEnsemble Coding in Audition
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPiazza, EA, Sweeny, TD, Wessel, D, Silver, MA, Whitney, D
JournalPsychological Science
Date Published08/2013
Keywordsauditory, coding,, Ensemble, frequency, perception,statistical, summary,

In vision, humans use summary statistics (e.g., average facial expression) to efficiently perceivethe gist of groups of features. Here, we present direct evidence that ensemble coding isimportant for auditory processing. We found that listeners could accurately estimate the meanfrequency of a set of logarithmically spaced pure tones presented in a temporal sequence(Experiment 1) but that their performance was severely reduced when only a subset of tonesfrom a given sequence was presented, demonstrating that ensemble coding is based on asubstantial number of the tones in a sequence (Experiment 2). This precise ensemble codingoccurred despite very limited representation of individual tones from the sequence: listeners werepoor at identifying specific individual member tones (Experiment 3) and at determining theirpositions in the sequence (Experiment 4). Together, these results indicate that summarystatistical coding is not limited to visual processing and is an important auditory mechanism forextracting ensemble frequency information from sequences of sounds.