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Selective attention is a crucial mechanism in everyday life, allowing us to focus on a portion of incoming sensory information at the expense of other less relevant stimuli. The circumstances under which irrelevant stimuli are successfully ignored have been a topic of scientific interest for several decades now. Over the last 20 years, the perceptual load theory (e.g. Lavie, 1995) has provided one robust framework for understanding these effects within the visual modality. The suggestion is that successful selection depends on the perceptual demands imposed by the task-relevant information. However, less research has addressed the question of whether the same principles hold in audition and, to date, the existing literature provides a mixed picture. Here, we review the evidence for and against the applicability of perceptual load theory in hearing, concluding that this question still awaits resolution.

Original publication




Journal article


Hear Res

Publication Date





40 - 48


Auditory selective attention, Distractor processing, Perceptual load, Acoustic Stimulation, Animals, Attention, Auditory Pathways, Auditory Perception, Cues, Humans, Perceptual Masking, Visual Perception