Causal Uncertainty in the Identification of Environmental Sounds
Technical rept. 1 Mar 1986-28 Feb 1987
GEORGETOWN UNIV WASHINGTON DC DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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This report is of an investigation into 1 whether the recognition of an isolated environmental sound depends upon the number of different events that could cause the sound 2 a method of quantifying the number of causal events and 3 the cognitive processes that mediate the effect of multiple causation. Research in the past has focused on the acoustics of the sound in an attempt to determine which features the listener uses in recognition. However, it is well known that recognition is influenced by expectations, particularly about the number of alternatives. Three experiments on the effect of alternative causes are reported. The results of the first experiment replicated earlier results that the Hick-Hyman law applies to environmental sound identification and demonstrated the reliability of a measure of causal uncertainty. The measure is not a signal property in the usual sense. However, by reflecting the number of alternatives an individual considers in making a recognition judgment, it is a feature of a sound that is related to important aspects of recognition performance. The second experiment provided evidence toward the validity or this measure. Keywords Auditory recognition Auditory transients Isolated sounds Auditory sequences.