Naming norms for brief environmental sounds: Effects of age and dementia


  • This research was supported in part by grants AG05213, AG09988, and HD14959 from the United States Public Health Service. D. Friedman is supported by Research Scientist Development Award MH00510. We thank Charles L. Brown III for computer programming and technical assistance. Gerard Bruder for helping with sound calibration, and Jeff Cheng, Sean Hewitt, Blanca Rincon, and Mairav Rothstein for helping with data collection. We also thank Gabriele Gratton, Greg Miller, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Address reprint requests to: Monica Fabiani, New York State Psychiatric Institute. 722 W. 168th Street, Unit 58, New York, NY 10032, USA. E-mail:


Brief nontonal sounds are used in electrophysiology in the novelty oddball paradigm. These sounds vary in the brain activity they elicit and in the degree to which they can be identified, named, and remembered. Because ease of sound identification may influence sound processing, naming and conceptual norms were determined for 100 sounds for 77 young adults (Experiment 1). Naming ability decreases in normal and pathological aging. Therefore, norms were also derived for older adults (Experiment 2) and for probable Alzheimer's disease patients (Experiment 3). With respect to the young adults, perseverative naming behavior increased in these groups, and sound and picture naming performance were correlated. In Experiment 4, the sound-naming performance of children aged 5–6, 9–11, and 14–16 yers was compared. Name and conceptual agreements improved with age, whereas perseverative behavior decreased. These normative data should be useful in guiding sound selection in future studies and help clarify the relationships between sound naming and other variables, including direct and indirect memory performance.