Surveying the sounds used in auditory perception research: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
A sound’s decay conveys useful information to listeners, such as the materials as well as the force involved in the impact event (Gygi, Kidd, & Watson, 2004). Yet its role is often overlooked in auditory perception experiments employing trapezoidally-shaped “flat” amplitude envelopes. My team has documented that time varying sounds can lead to considerably different understandings of perceptual organization in tasks ranging from audio-visual integration (Schutz, 2009) and duration assessment (Vallet, Shore, & Schutz, 2014) to memory recall (Schutz, Stefanucci, Baum & Roth, 2017).
To establish a baseline understanding of the range of sounds used in auditory perception research, we analyzed 215 experiments from 111 articles published the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) using methodology similar to my team’s previous survey of the journal Music Perception (Vaisberg & Schutz, 2014). Here we found 78% of auditory perception stimuli exhibited “flat” amplitude envelopes, with clicks/click trains accounting for an additional 7.8%. Only 2.8% exhibited the kinds of complex changes in amplitude found in natural sounds. Although the remaining 11.2% used sounds with some time varying amplitude information, this variation lacked any real-world referent (i.e., amplitude modulated tones, “pyramid shaped” tones with matched rise/fall times, etc.).
Therefore less than 3% of the sounds exhibited the kinds of complex changes in amplitude found in (and informative about) natural sounds. Moreover 86% of stimuli used in our survey exhibited no amplitude variation beyond abrupt onsets/offsets. This distribution is broadly consistent with my team’s surveys of other journals, indicating the under-assessment of sounds with complex amplitude variations is wide spread issue within psychological acoustics. I will discuss the implications of this previously undocumented challenge, as well as highlight implications for future research opportunities
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