This paper reports the results of two experiments that examined the effects of signal and masker uncertainty on preschool-age children's and adults' detection of tonal signals in noise maskers. In Experiment 1 (signal uncertainty) the signal was randomly at 501 or 2818 Hz. The majority of the adult listeners showed a slight decrement in performance consistent with an ability to monitor both frequencies simultaneously. The majority of the children, however, showed no decrement in performance, suggesting that the children may not have focused attention at the signal frequency even when it was fixed. In Experiment 2 (masker uncertainty), random-frequency, random-level, tonal distracters were added to each interval of the 2 alternative-forced-choice (2afc) procedure. The effect of masker uncertainty was much larger than that of signal uncertainty. For most of the adult listeners and some of the children, the distracters produced higher thresholds (on average by 10 dB) and shallower psychometric function slopes. For most of the children, thresholds increased by 20 dB or more and psychometric functions were often nearly flat.
KEY WORDS: detection, uncertainty, children, psychometric functions, development
Submitted on December 8, 1993
Accepted on November 29, 1994