Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

The Subjective Duration of Ramped and Damped Sounds

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

The Subjective Duration of Ramped and Damped Sounds

Article excerpt

Two experiments demonstrate that the perceived durations of sounds as long as 1 sec are influenced by the sounds' amplitude envelopes, extending Schlauch, Ries, and DiGiovanni's (2001) observations on sounds of 200-msec duration. Sounds with a monotonic decay (i.e., damped sounds) are heard as substantially shorter than both steady sounds and those with a monotonic increase of level (i.e., ramped sounds). Neither a reaction time (Experiments 1 and 2) nor a staircase (Experiment 2) procedure supported a sensory explanation for these different subjective durations. The results are compatible with the suggestion of Stecker and Hafter (2000) that listeners exclude part of the tails of damped sounds in the computation of their subjective durations.

In the present article, we investigate a simple temporal asymmetry in hearing: the difference between sounds that increase in level (i.e., ramped sounds) and those that decrease in level (i.e., damped sounds). Although pairs of such sounds have identical overall spectral contents, durations, levels, and absolute changes in level, many perceptual attributes of the sounds are strikingly different. Ramped and damped sounds differ in timbre (Akeroyd & Patterson, 1995; Irino & Patterson, 1996; Patterson, 1994a, 1994b), subjective duration (Schlauch, Ries, & DiGiovanni, 2001), overall loudness (Stecker & Hafter, 2000), and possibly changes in loudness (for durations shorter than ~2 sec, see Neuhoff, 1998, 2001; Seifritz etal., 2002; for longer durations, see Canévet, 1986; Canévet & Scharf, 1990; Canévet, Teghtsoonian, & Teghtsoonian, 2003; Schlauch, 1992; Teghtsoonian, Teghtsoonian, & Canévet, 2000, 2005). The explanation for these effects is not yet clear, with differences in sensory coding providing a possible explanation for brief sounds but not for longer ones. With the experiments reported here, we investigated differences in perceived duration for ramped and damped sounds whose durations extend up to 1 sec.

In the first report of asymmetric perception of these temporally reversed sounds, Patterson and his colleagues (Akeroyd & Patterson, 1995; Irino & Patterson, 1996; Patterson, 1994a, 1994b) found that the timbre of a concatenated series of brief (≤100-msec) ramped sounds was different from that of the reversed series. The sequence of ramped sounds was perceived as possessing a rhythmic component together with a continuous component, whereas the sequence of damped sounds had only the rhythmic component.

A similar perceptual asymmetry is present for loudness. Stecker and Hafter (2000) found that a 250-msec ramped sound was perceived as louder than the corresponding reversed sound. With ramped and damped sounds of even longer duration (1.8 sec), Neuhoff and his colleagues reported that listeners perceived the change in loudness of ramped sounds to be greater than that for damped sounds (Neuhoff, 1998, 2001; Seifritz et al., 2002).

Schlauch et al. (2001) discovered that a perceptual asymmetry also occurs for subjective duration. Using both a magnitude estimation procedure and a matching procedure, they measured the subjective durations of single ramped and damped sounds 10-200 msec in duration. The two procedures yielded similar results: Ramped sounds were always perceived as much longer than damped sounds of the same physical duration.

In summary, across all three perceptual dimensions (i.e., subjective duration, loudness, and timbre), the ramped sounds are perceived as more salient than the damped ones. In addition, the asymmetry decreases (Akeroyd & Patterson, 1995; Irino & Patterson, 1996; Schlauch et al., 2001) or disappears (Neuhoff, 1998, 2001) when the carrier is a broadband noise rather than a tone, and also decreases when the modulating function is shallow rather than steep (Akeroyd & Patterson, 1995; Irino & Patterson, 1996; Patterson, 1994a, 1994b; Schlauch et al., 2001; Stecker & Hafter, 2000). …

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