We rely critically on our ability to identify simple objects and events from sound to function normally in everyday listening. Yet, despite its importance, little is known regarding this ability. A new psychophysical method promises to change this situation. Perturbation analysis has enjoyed recent success in vision as a means of revealing decision processes underlying object identification. Here it is applied to the auditory identification of elementary sound sources and their attributes. The application proceeds in three stages: First, the sounds of simple resonant sources are synthesized according to their equations of motion from theoretical acoustics. Second, listener decision strategy is determined from regression weights relating listener judgments to lawful perturbations in acoustic parameters as dictated by the equations for motion. Third, limits in processing are identified by comparing the obtained weights and residuals to those of a maximum-likelihood observer that bases decisions on acoustic information unique to the source attribute(s) being judged. The approach represents a significant advance over past methods that infer decision strategy from performance accuracy or from the effect of placing acoustic cues in unlawful opposition.
Specific aims are: (1) to determine precisely how listeners use multiple sources of acoustic information to identify rudimentary sound sources and their attributes, (2) to isolate the factors that limit identification using training feedback and instruction, and (3) to test a general theoretical framework for predicting results in which less accurate though perceptually more robust acoustic cues offer a viable basis for identification. By advancing our understanding of the normal processes underlying sound source identification the results may prove key in the development of technologies and rehabilitative strategies that deal more effectively with the impact of dysfunctional hearing on everyday listening.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Auditory System Study Section (AUD)
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Donahue, Amy
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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Lutfi, Robert A; Liu, Ching-Ju; Stoelinga, Christophe N J (2013) A new approach to sound source segregation. Adv Exp Med Biol 787:203-11
Stoelinga, Christophe N J; Lutfi, Robert A (2011) Discrimination of the spectral density of multitone complexes. J Acoust Soc Am 130:2882-90
Lutfi, Robert A; Liu, Ching-Ju (2011) A method for evaluating the relation between sound source segregation and masking. J Acoust Soc Am 129:EL34-8
Lutfi, Robert A; Liu, Ching-Ju; Stoelinga, Christophe N J (2011) Auditory discrimination of force of impact. J Acoust Soc Am 129:2104-11
Lutfi, Robert A; Liu, Ching-Ju (2011) Target enhancement and noise cancellation in the identification of a rudimentary sound source in noise. J Acoust Soc Am 129:EL52-6
Lutfi, Robert A; Stoelinga, Christophe N J (2010) Sensory constraints on auditory identification of the material and geometric properties of struck bars. J Acoust Soc Am 127:350-60
Arora, Raman; Lutfi, Robert A (2009) An efficient code for environmental sound classification. J Acoust Soc Am 126:7-10
Lutfi, Robert A; Liu, Ching-Ju; Stoelinga, Christophe (2008) Level dominance in sound source identification. J Acoust Soc Am 124:3784-92
Lutfi, Robert A; Liu, Ching-Ju (2007) Individual differences in source identification from synthesized impact sounds. J Acoust Soc Am 122:1017-28
Lutfi, Robert A; Jesteadt, Walt (2006) Molecular analysis of the effect of relative tone level on multitone pattern discrimination. J Acoust Soc Am 120:3853-60