The effect of voice familiarity on attention to speech in a cocktail party scenario

Paz Har-Shai Yahav, Aviya Sharaabi, Elana Zion Golumbic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Selective attention to one speaker in multi-talker environments can be affected by the acoustic and semantic properties of speech. One highly ecological feature of speech that has the potential to assist in selective attention is voice familiarity. Here, we tested how voice familiarity interacts with selective attention by measuring the neural speech-tracking response to both target and non-target speech in a dichotic listening "Cocktail Party"paradigm. We measured Magnetoencephalography from n = 33 participants, presented with concurrent narratives in two different voices, and instructed to pay attention to one ear ("target") and ignore the other ("non-target"). Participants were familiarized with one of the voices during the week prior to the experiment, rendering this voice familiar to them. Using multivariate speech-tracking analysis we estimated the neural responses to both stimuli and replicate their well-established modulation by selective attention. Importantly, speech-tracking was also affected by voice familiarity, showing enhanced response for target speech and reduced response for non-target speech in the contra-lateral hemisphere, when these were in a familiar vs. an unfamiliar voice. These findings offer valuable insight into how voice familiarity, and by extension, auditory-semantics, interact with goal-driven attention, and facilitate perceptual organization and speech processing in noisy environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbhad475
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
StatePublished - 14 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


This work was funded by the Israel Science Foundation grant # 2339/20 to EZG.

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation2339/20


    • MEG
    • selective attention
    • speech processing
    • voice familiarity


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