3-D localization of virtual sound sources: effects of visual environment, pointing method, and training

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2010 Feb;72(2):454-69. doi: 10.3758/APP.72.2.454.


The ability to localize sound sources in three-dimensional space was tested in humans. In Experiment 1, naive subjects listened to noises filtered with subject-specific head-related transfer functions. The tested conditions included the pointing method (head or manual pointing) and the visual environment (VE; darkness or virtual VE). The localization performance was not significantly different between the pointing methods. The virtual VE significantly improved the horizontal precision and reduced the number of front-back confusions. These results show the benefit of using a virtual VE in sound localization tasks. In Experiment 2, subjects were provided with sound localization training. Over the course of training, the performance improved for all subjects, with the largest improvements occurring during the first 400 trials. The improvements beyond the first 400 trials were smaller. After the training, there was still no significant effect of pointing method, showing that the choice of either head- or manual-pointing method plays a minor role in sound localization performance. The results of Experiment 2 reinforce the importance of perceptual training for at least 400 trials in sound localization studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depth Perception*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Orientation*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Social Environment*
  • Sound Localization*
  • Space Perception*
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult