Perception of the size and shape of resonant objects
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Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Publication date: 2013-12-31
Corresponding author
Stefan Bleeck   

Stefan Bleeck, Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom, e-mail: bleeck@soton.ac.uk, Tel.: 0044 2380 596682
J Hear Sci 2013;3(4):19-30
We investigated the ability of naïve, untrained listeners to identify the physical parameters of 3D polystyrene objects from listening to single impulse sounds generated by an impact collision. We were specifically interested in the perception of object shape and object size and their interaction.

Material and Methods:
Twenty polystyrene objects of various shapes (spheres, hearts, cubes, eggs, rings, and cones) and sizes (between 64 cm3 and 2278 cm3 ) were used in three experiments investigating size and shape perception. In the first experiment, the task was to identify the ‘odd one out’ of three sounds originating from objects of different shape or size. In the second experiment the task was to identify the shape and size of an object just by listening to it. In the third experiment the task was to rate how similar two sounds were.

Results show that listeners were able, to a degree, to identify the size and shape of objects without reference and in relation to each other. Multidimensional scaling suggests that shape (most salient) and size (second most salient) are the predominant perceptual dimensions.

We conclude that humans, to some degree and without training and without prior experience, have the ability to infer the physical properties of object size and shape by listening to single impulse sounds. Size and shape seem to be independent and are the most salient parameters.

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