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Psychology of auditory perception

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Abstract

Audition is often treated as a ‘secondary’ sensory system behind vision in the study of cognitive science. In this review, we focus on three seemingly simple perceptual tasks to demonstrate the complexity of perceptual–cognitive processing involved in everyday audition. After providing a short overview of the characteristics of sound and their neural encoding, we present a description of the perceptual task of segregating multiple sound events that are mixed together in the signal reaching the ears. Then, we discuss the ability to localize the sound source in the environment. Finally, we provide some data and theory on how listeners categorize complex sounds, such as speech. In particular, we present research on how listeners weigh multiple acoustic cues in making a categorization decision. One conclusion of this review is that it is time for auditory cognitive science to be developed to match what has been done in vision in order for us to better understand how humans communicate with speech and music. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 479–489 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.123

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