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Rijksuniversiteit Groningen/Campus Fryslân
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Multidisciplinary approaches to human auditory processing

Datum:08 november 2016
Multidisciplinary approaches to human auditory processing
Multidisciplinary approaches to human auditory processing

On October 24 of 2016 Daniéle Dubois (LAM, Paris 6)  with Caroline Cance (Université d'Orléans) and Matt Coler (RUG/CF) and thanks to from Hugues Genevois (LAM, within the Institut Jean le Rond d'Alembert Paris 6) organized a seminar on semantic categories in . The seminar was held at the "Lutheries - Acoustique - Musique" (LAM) de l'Institut Jean le Rond d'Alembert (UPMC, Paris).

The seminar is the second in a series dedicated to coupling research methods from the Human Sciences (namely Psychology, Linguistics) with research methods from the Natural Sciences (namely Physics and Acoustics) and the practices of luthiers and musicians. The presentation outlined multidisciplinary approaches to addressing complex scientific questions through proficiency in specialized experimental procedures and data analysis in both scientific traditions.

Audition poses a unique challenge for scientists. On the one hand, scientific knowledge of sonic objects is based on the physiological properties of the human senses. However, physiological or physical models alone cannot alone account for the diversity of interpretations of a speech, musical or environmental sounds. After all, people may interpret the same sonic stimuli in different ways.  This is obvious for speech. While you perceive the space between the words in your own language, you do not perceive them in languages which are radically different. This is because those spaces are not in the sound signal. They are constructed by one’s mind. Similar examples exist for music, where the perception of depends on the perceiver’s cultural background, not only on acoustic parameters. The case is even more salient for environmental sounds, where interpretation varies widely and is influenced by one’s .  It’s easy to think of other examples to illustrate the complexity of studying audition. For example, what’s the difference between a sound that’s listened to versus a sound that’s heard? In what sense is it the “same sound”?

The fact that people interpret the “same” sonic stimuli differently shows that people use individual knowledge to recognize sounds. The knowledge used in interpreting sounds drives the processing of specific parameters of a sonic object. Crucially, those parameters are unknown and context-dependent. Learning about them requires a multidisciplinary approach. This is because such parameters are not “in” the signal in a physical sense. Instead, for human processing, the signal is a cue to that gives meaning to an acoustic stimulation.

Seminar participants explored this issue, collaboratively elaborating methods to perform such multidisciplinary, rigorous research, using applied case studies from the audience as working examples. A main theme in the methodologies was addressing the limitations of the traditional psychophysical approach (where the scientific method begins with a physical object) by adopting a situated,  ecological approach (where the scientific method begins with a psychological object of study).

The seminar builds on the output  of the books Le et le dire (2009), and its successor Exploring sensory experience (in preparation), and connects to work ongoing at the GSCF on recognition of voiced-based recognition of speech pathologies as well as to work at the  LAM on topics as diverse as modeling the relationships between musicians and instruments (Jean-Loïc Le Carrou and Claudia Fitz), the expert evaluation of acoustic signals from earthquakes (Lapo Boschi), among others.

The event was held at an interesting time in Paris, as the universities there restructure, and the LAM seeks to valorize its multidisciplinary approach within the Collegium Musicae.

seminar in early 2017 will be dedicated to the issue of language and meaning.

Related reading
Chadefaux, D., Le Carrou, J. L., Fabre, B., & Daudet, L. (2012). Experimentally based description of harp plucking. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131(1), 844-855.

Dubois, D. (2009). Le sentir et le dire: concepts et méthodes en psychologie et linguistique cognitives. Editions L'Harmattan.

Dubois, D. & Coler, M. (eds). (in prep). Exploring Sensory Experiences. Benjamins.

Fritz, C., & Dubois, D. (2015). Perceptual Evaluation of Musical Instruments: State of the Art and Methodology. Acta Acustica United with Acustica, 101(2), 369-381.

Paté, A., Boschi, L., Le Carrou, J. L., & Holtzman, B. (2016). Categorization of seismic sources by auditory display: A blind test. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 85, 57-67.

Paté, A., Carrou, J. L. L., Navarret, B., Dubois, D., & Fabre, B. (2015). Influence of the electric guitar's fingerboard wood on guitarists' perception. Acta Acustica united with Acustica, 101(2), 347-359.