The Intelligent Ear: On the Nature of Sound Perception

The Intelligent Ear: On the Nature of Sound Perception

The Intelligent Ear: On the Nature of Sound Perception

The Intelligent Ear: On the Nature of Sound Perception

Synopsis

Plomp's Aspects of Tone Sensation--published 25 years ago--dealt with the psychophysics of simple and complex tones. Since that time, auditory perception as a field of study has undergone a radical metamorphosis. Technical and methodological innovations, as well as a considerable increase in attention to the various aspects of auditory experience, have changed the picture profoundly. This book is an attempt to account for this development by giving a comprehensive survey of the present state of the art as a whole. Perceptual aspects of hearing, particularly of understanding speech as the main auditory input signal, are thoroughly reviewed.

Excerpt

Twenty-five years ago, I published a monograph entitled Aspects of Tone Sensation, dealing with the psychophysics of simple and complex tones. Since that time, auditory perception as a field of study has undergone a radical metamorphosis. Technical and methodological innovations, as well as a considerable increase in attention to the various aspects of our auditory experience, have changed the picture profoundly.

This book is an attempt to account for this development, not by considering the new attainments one by one, but by giving a comprehensive survey of the present state of the art as a whole. My point of departure is the auditory reality we deal with in everyday life, the fact that we are continuously confronted with many simultaneous sound streams such as those produced by motor cars, musical instruments, and, most important, human speakers. Traditionally, hearing has been studied in a rather abstract way, considered in terms of parameters manipulated under “clean” laboratory conditions rather than as accomplished under the confounded conditions of the world outside. Moreover, the auditory and cognitive aspects of listening to complex sounds have mostly been studied more or less independently as two successive stages of auditory processing, rather than as different facets of the same process. I have attempted to break with this tradition by focusing on the superposition of complex sound streams rather than the abstractions of single sound “units”—tone pulses or speech phonemes—as a means of judging whether our descriptions and theories are valid. It is for the reader to decide whether this approach has been successful or not.

This preference for an inclusive approach explains the book's title. Nowadays it is fashionable to speak about “intelligent” computers and machines, so it may be time to also speak of the “intelligent” ear, as R. L. Gregory did for the eye in 1970, more than 30 years ago. To do this, I have restricted myself to what I consider to be the basic characteristics of the hearing process. There are many books dealing with topics such as hearing thresholds for tones, just-noticeable differences in frequency and amplitude, the ear's sensitivity to differences in . . .

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