Evaluating Listeners' Attention to and Comprehension of Spatialized Concurrent and Serial Talkers at Normal and a Synthetically Faster Rate of Speech

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Brock, Derek
McClimens, Brian
Trafton, J Gregory
McCurry, Malcolm
Perzanowski, Dennis
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Concurrent voice communications workload has been identified as a pivotal issue for desired reductions in the size of Navy watchstanding teams on future platforms. Without effective augmenting technologies, real increases in current per-person communications monitoring requirements will lead to unacceptable reductions in operator performance. A proposal to buffer voice communications and monitor them serially at synthetically increased rates of speech has recently been put forward as an alternative to concurrent monitoring. However, any decrements in listening performance associated with temporal scaling must be weighed against the costs of current practices. A comparative study reported here examines measures of auditory attention and comprehension in different multitalker contexts using long blocks of continuous speech. In four conditions, listeners respectively heard two and four concurrent talkers and four serial talkers (i.e., one at a time) speaking normally and 75% faster. With only a few exceptions, all pairwise differences between measures were significant. Performance in the faster serial condition was lower than in the normal serial condition, but was found to be greater than in either of the concurrent conditions by a substantial margin.
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