Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Auditory Stream

An auditory stream is the perceptual unit – a coherent event – that is the end result of auditory processing (Bregman, 1990).  Fundamentally, it involves the grouping together of sequential sounds.  An auditory stream is analogous to the notion of object in visual perception.  It involves segregating different auditory components, which will usually be co-occurring, into separate auditory objects (i.e. distinct auditory streams).  Bregman discusses in detail many principles that can be used to accomplish this, noting their analogy to Gestalt principles of organization for visual stimulation.  The creation of auditory streams must combine principles of segregation (assigning auditory signals to separate streams) and grouping (assigning time-varying signals to the same stream).The notion of an auditory stream is also related to Seashore’s (1938) notion of sonance, which involves the combining of different auditory events into unitary streams.  Seashore’s account of sonance could be viewed as a preliminary step towards Bregman’s modern notion of organizing the auditory “buzz” into multiple, coherent streams.


  1. Bregman, A. S. (1990). Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization Of Sound. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  2. Seashore, C. E. (1938/1967). Psychology of Music. New York,: Dover Publications.

(Added November, 2010)