John G. Neuhoff

 

An adaptive bias in perceiving looming auditory motion

Listen to a looming sound (.rm), (.wav), (.aif)

Rising acoustic intensity can indicate movement of a sound source toward a listener. Perceptual overestimation of intensity change could provide a selective advantage by indicating that the source is closer than actual, providing a better opportunity for the listener to prepare for the source's arrival. Results indicate that rising intensity changes in loudness more than equivalent falling intensity, and approaching sounds are perceived as starting and stopping closer than equidistant receding sounds. Both effects are greater for tones than for noise.

We have conducted psychoacoustic studies, brain imaging studies, sex differences studies, and comparative studies with Rhesus monkeys. Together, this converging evidence suggests that an asymmetry in the neural coding of egocentric auditory motion is an adaptation that provides advanced warning of looming acoustic sources. 

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