Exploring sound perception through vocal imitations

J Acoust Soc Am. 2020 May;147(5):3306. doi: 10.1121/10.0001224.


Understanding how sounds are perceived and interpreted is an important challenge for researchers dealing with auditory perception. The ecological approach to perception suggests that the salient perceptual information that enables an auditor to recognize events through sounds is contained in specific structures called invariants. Identifying such invariants is of interest from a fundamental point of view to better understand auditory perception and it is also useful to include perceptual considerations to model and control sounds. Among the different approaches used to identify perceptually relevant sound structures, vocal imitations are believed to bring a fresh perspective to the field. The main goal of this paper is to better understand how invariants are transmitted through vocal imitations. A sound corpus containing different types of known invariants obtained from an existing synthesizer was established. Participants took part in a test where they were asked to imitate the sound corpus. A continuous and sparse model adapted to the specificities of the vocal imitations was then developed and used to analyze the imitations. Results show that participants were able to highlight salient elements of the sounds that partially correspond to the invariants used in the sound corpus. This study also confirms that vocal imitations reveal how these invariants are transmitted through perception and offers promising perspectives on auditory investigations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't