Robust and Efficient Online Auditory Psychophysics.
Zhao S., Brown CA., Holt LL., Dick F.
Most human auditory psychophysics research has historically been conducted in carefully controlled environments with calibrated audio equipment, and over potentially hours of repetitive testing with expert listeners. Here, we operationally define such conditions as having high 'auditory hygiene'. From this perspective, conducting auditory psychophysical paradigms online presents a serious challenge, in that results may hinge on absolute sound presentation level, reliably estimated perceptual thresholds, low and controlled background noise levels, and sustained motivation and attention. We introduce a set of procedures that address these challenges and facilitate auditory hygiene for online auditory psychophysics. First, we establish a simple means of setting sound presentation levels. Across a set of four level-setting conditions conducted in person, we demonstrate the stability and robustness of this level setting procedure in open air and controlled settings. Second, we test participants' tone-in-noise thresholds using widely adopted online experiment platforms and demonstrate that reliable threshold estimates can be derived online in approximately one minute of testing. Third, using these level and threshold setting procedures to establish participant-specific stimulus conditions, we show that an online implementation of the classic probe-signal paradigm can be used to demonstrate frequency-selective attention on an individual-participant basis, using a third of the trials used in recent in-lab experiments. Finally, we show how threshold and attentional measures relate to well-validated assays of online participants' in-task motivation, fatigue, and confidence. This demonstrates the promise of online auditory psychophysics for addressing new auditory perception and neuroscience questions quickly, efficiently, and with more diverse samples. Code for the tests is publicly available through Pavlovia and Gorilla.