Making high-stakes decisions in complex acoustic environments: Revisiting the Cocktail Party problem in a multimodal sensory context

Academic Article


  • Ambient noise in its many forms represents an ecological reality and evolutionary driver that influences numerous expressions of animal behavior, especially those associated with communication. Noise often extends across sensory modalities, resulting in channel-specific effects that can range from non-additive to synergistic. Here, we describe how noise modality influences female preference for a preferred signal trait (low dominant frequency) in the lek-mating prairie mole cricket, Gryllotalpa major, a species whose mating system has evolved in the ecological context of both biotic and abiotic noise. We conducted two-choice playback experiments with females presented with male signals of the preferred vs. non-preferred trait in the context of isomodal (male chorus), cross-modal (substrate-borne vibration) and multimodal noise (both) conditions. We found that female preference for lower DF signals was robust to isomodal noise, but preference was weakened in treatments with a cross-modal stimulus only. Female performance in multimodal noise was comparable to control and isomodal treatments, suggesting that while cues obtained via the subgenual organs can mask salient airborne information, biotic noise may act as a releaser from this interference.
  • Authors


    Publication Date

  • March 2018
  • Has Subject Area

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1859
  • End Page

  • 1859
  • Volume

  • 143
  • Issue

  • 3