Are Auditory Percepts Determined by Experience?

Brian B. Monson, Shui'Er Han, Dale Purves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Audition-what listeners hear-is generally studied in terms of the physical properties of sound stimuli and physiological properties of the auditory system. Based on recent work in vision, we here consider an alternative perspective that sensory percepts are based on past experience. In this framework, basic auditory qualities (e.g., loudness and pitch) are based on the frequency of occurrence of stimulus patterns in natural acoustic stimuli. To explore this concept of audition, we examined five well-documented psychophysical functions. The frequency of occurrence of acoustic patterns in a database of natural sound stimuli (speech) predicts some qualitative aspects of these functions, but with substantial quantitative discrepancies. This approach may offer a rationale for auditory phenomena that are difficult to explain in terms of the physical attributes of the stimuli as such.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere63728
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 7 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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