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'high-low' illusion

I have some comments on Dick Warren's comment on the 'high-low' illusion.

First, verbal tranformation effects in general are indeed not new, as I
write in  the booklet accompanying my CD:

'Verbal transformations have also been produced in different ways, for
example by the psychologist Richard Warren'.

Second, Warren did not 'discover' verbal transformation effects. In a paper
published by Warren in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, 1983,
vol 31, pp 623, he describes such effects as having existed since the early
part of the century, quoting, among others, Titchener, 1915, and Skinner,
1936. Warren's description of Skinner's work reads (p626) '..a phonographic
record of a series of faint and indistinct vowels, such as ''ee'', ''oo'',
''ah'', ''uh'', repeated over and over. After several repetitions of these
meaningless patterns, meaning seemed to ''summate'', and listeners were
convinced that they heard words and phrases related to some personal aspect
of their lives'.....

Third, Warren implies that he discovered or' reported' the 'high-low
illusion', but this is not true. More generally, Warren writes that verbal
transformations occur best when the words are 'clearly enunciated' (as in
his recent note to this list) - which is the last way one would describe
the 'high-low' pattern. Warren's closest work is one in which a word such
as 'vrine' is repeated dichotocally, so that the word is delivered to the
two ears asynchronously. Warren concluded that the right and left ears
behave functionally equivalently in this situation. To quote from the same
paper: 'there were no such differences, and that changes were functionally
equivalent on the two sides.' There is a  description of this particular
work in this paper, together with a sound demonstration accompanying the
paper (on soft LP), in the JAES issue (which I  guest-edited).

In contrast, I generated the 'high-low' illusion in an attempt to obtain a
version of the octave illusion using verbal stimuli. To this end,  I chose
the words 'high' and low', not only for their meaning, but also because
their vowel spectra are promising ones for inducing an effect such as the
octave illusion. I also shaped the time-varying amplitude envelopes for the
words 'high' and 'low', so that they would be reasonably similar to each
other. And indeed, when listening to this pattern, the sounds heard as
coming to the right ear do indeed differ from those that are heard as
coming to the left.  This effect is  not as strong as the octave illusion,
though some subjects report hearing an effect that is very  similar - there
are striking individual differences here. It is certainly not the same as
Warren's effect, since for the 'high-low' pattern many people report clear
differences in the sounds that are perceived as coming from the right
earphone or loudspeaker as opposed to the left one - I believe that this is
due to perceptual asymmetries that are related to those producing the
octave illusion.

It turns out that' high-low' demo on the CD is particularly conducive to
obtaining verbal transformations (though I did not originally generate it
for this purpose). I believe that the reason is that  alternating spectra
such employed here, and in this particular fashion, is particularly
conducive to perceptual fusion, just as this type of alternation gives rise
to the perceptual fusion that occurs with the octave illusion. In contrast
to the effects studied by Warren, the fusion of the sounds coming from the
left and right sides of space here gives rise to the perception of speech
sounds which are quite different from those that are heard as coming from
either channel when presented alone.

Finally,since these sound demonstrations are readily available, I invite
readers to listen to Warren's demos, published in the JAES issue referenced
aove, and to compare these with the 'high-low' demo on my CD.

I hope this clears up the misconceptions in Warren's note.

Diana Deutsch

Diana Deutsch
Department of Psychology
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

tel:       619-453-1558
fax:      619-453-4763
e-mail: ddeutsch@ucsd.edu