Acoustical and Conceptual Information for the Perception of Animate and Inanimate Sound Sources
Giordano, Bruno L
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Is the sound of a train whistling more similar to the sound of the wheels of a train or to the sound of your whistle? This question addresses the comparative relevance of acoustical and conceptual information to the perceived similarity of sound events. The answer to this question has theoretical and methodological consequences for the field of sound source perception, and for the behaviorally informed synthesis of environmental sounds. Hierarchical sorting was used to collect measures of the similarity of large sets of animate or inanimate sounds in naive listeners. Results were compared with those from two other conditions based on the same data–collection technique. Conceptual similarity was measured by presenting the sound source identification labels (written words) collected during a free–identification experiment. Acoustical similarity was measured on heard sounds, after participants received a training meant to minimize the effects of conceptual information on sorting. Acoustical similarity was only weakly correlated with conceptual similarity, proving the effectiveness of the training methodology in the acoustical condition. Also, naive listeners focused on conceptual and acoustical information when judging the similarity of animate and inanimate sound events, respectively. Theoretical and methodological consequences of these results are discussed.