Article

The role of paying attention to sounds in soundscape perception.

Ghent University, Gent, Belgium, .
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (Impact Factor: 1.56). 04/2012; 131(4):3382. DOI: 10.1121/1.4708755
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT It has been stated frequently that the soundscape as perceived and appraised by the user of a space, extends beyond the physical stimulus. We argue that, when introducing to human-factor in analyzing a sonic environment, the sounds that people hear play an important role. This holds in particular for rather quiet and infrequent disturbance of park soundscapes. Auditory attention mechanisms are essential in the process. Attention can be drawn by saliency elements such as changes in time and frequency, but it can also be outward oriented and voluntary. These mechanisms could explain the special role of natural sounds in distracting attention from mechanical background hum in a park environment. These theoretical concepts have now been implemented in measuring equipment that allows estimating how often particular sounds will be heard by a human listener. The methodology includes biologically inspired feature extraction, learning based on co-occurrence of features and saliency, attention focusing, and inhibition of return. Extension to binaural measurements increasing the unmasking effect is also discussed.

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    • "The study of natural scene perception has revealed that we are efficient at detecting visual scene gist properties, such as openness and expansion, with a single glance of the visual world [1], and that visual motion is efficient at capturing our attention [2]. Urban soundscapes have been found to be classified according to the emotional dimensions pleasantness and arousal, predicted by the amount of mechanical noise in the scene, but, at the same time, there is no clear knowledge of what environmental sounds people actually hear when they are not intentionally focusing on some specific aspect of the sound scene [3] [4]. "
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    7th Forum Acusticum, Krakow, Poland; 09/2014
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    • "Visual stimulation can bias the auditory perception [17], and vice versa [18], making the use of unimodal saliency modeling problematic. Recently, attention has been shown to have an effect on auditory streaming as well [16], [19], which would imply that the auditory scene can be structured differently based on the focus of attention. The study of urban soundscapes has revealed two generic cognitive categories: event sequences and amorphous sequences, referring respectively to soundscapes where individual sounds can or cannot be easily distinguished within the soundscape [20]. "
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    ABSTRACT: This work analyzed the perceptual attributes of natural dynamic audiovisual scenes. We presented thirty participants with 19 natural scenes in a similarity categorization task, followed by a semi-structured interview. The scenes were reproduced with an immersive audiovisual display. Natural scene perception has been studied mainly with unimodal settings, which have identified motion as one of the most salient attributes related to visual scenes, and sound intensity along with pitch trajectories related to auditory scenes. However, controlled laboratory experiments with natural multimodal stimuli are still scarce. Our results show that humans pay attention to similar perceptual attributes in natural scenes, and a two-dimensional perceptual map of the stimulus scenes and perceptual attributes was obtained in this work. The exploratory results show the amount of movement, perceived noisiness, and eventfulness of the scene to be the most important perceptual attributes in naturalistically reproduced real-world urban environments. We found the scene gist properties openness and expansion to remain as important factors in scenes with no salient auditory or visual events. We propose that the study of scene perception should move forward to understand better the processes behind multimodal scene processing in real-world environments. We publish our stimulus scenes as spherical video recordings and sound field recordings in a publicly available database.
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