Auditory perception of material is fragile while action is strikingly robust.

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Abstract or Description

While many psychoacoustic studies have found that listeners can recover some causal properties of sound-generating objects (such as the material), comparatively little is known about the causal properties of the sound-generating actions and how they are perceived. This article reports on a study comparing the performance of listeners required to identify either the actions or the materials used to generate sound stimuli. Stimuli were recordings of a set of cylinders of two sizes and four materials (wood, plastic, glass, metal) undergoing four different actions (scraping, rolling, hitting, bouncing). Experiment 1 tested how well each sound conveyed that it was generated with a different action or material. Experiment 2 measured both accuracy and reaction times for the identification of actions and materials. Listeners were faster and more accurate at identifying the action than the material. Even for the subset of sounds for which actions and materials were equivalently well identified, listeners were faster at identifying the action than the material. These results suggest that the auditory system is well-suited to extract information about sound-generating actions.




Published In

J. Acoust. Soc. Am, 131, 2, 1337-1348.