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"The Case of the Missing Fundamental"
I've been using this term for so long - "The Case of the Missing
Fundamental" - I can't quite recall who may have been the first to use it
to describe the phenomenon first described by Schouten in 1940, though I
don't think he used it; he limited his description to the "residue pitch"
perceived with filtered high (unresolved) harmonics? It's perhaps more
often described as the "phenomenon of the missing fundamental"" Cetainly
Plomp uses the term, and it may be that it has just stuck in my mind after
reading some of his papers and books. It's certainly memorable and has
'Sherlockian' overtones ...
So no, sadly I cannot lay claim to its use for posterity. A Google search
of the term provides many hits.
Perhaps others on this list may recall its first use?
On Aug 7 2011, Ranjit Randhawa wrote:
I was quite taken in by your choice of words "The Case of the Missing
Fundamental", and was curious as to whether you came up with that on
your own or have you heard it somewhere else. I have written a rough
draft of a book that I had titled the same and hence my question. Just
On 8/2/2011 9:05 PM, Dr JI Alcantara wrote:
Given the last email, it might be worthwhile agreeing on an acceptable
operational definition of what constitutes an auditory illusion. We
might then be able to decide if "The Case of the Missing Fundamental"
is indeed an illusion or a natural and predictable consequence of
auditory (pitch) processing; or indeed whether tinnitus is an auditory
illusion or perhaps even an auditory hallucination?
An often-used (circular) definition is simply that an auditory
illusion is the aural equivalent of an optical illusion, and though
non-informative, it at least has the advantage of using a reference
that is well known to most and reasonably well understood: we all know
when we see a visual illusion (?), and there seems to be no getting
away from the fact that any discussion/description of auditory
illusions seems to always refer back to optical illusions.
A (slightly) better definition, which at least attempts to set out the
essential attributes of the thing being defined, might be that an
auditory illusion corresponds to a listener hearing: (1) sound(s) that
are not present in the physical stimulus; or (2) so-called "impossible
sounds". The former definition is not overly helpful, as clearly the
auditory system is capable of generating (sometimes audible)
distortion products in response to an input sound, although it would
work well enough for explaining the "continuity effect"; and the
latter definition needs further definition: what constitutes
"impossible"? Something that cannot exist in the real world? But we
don't perceive the real world; only the 'story' or narrative our brain
makes up from the (selected) sensory information available to it.
I would argue that for something to be called an auditory illusion, it
must include those general assumptions, based on organisational
principles, that the brain makes during perception/cognition.
Accordingly, we hear an auditory illusion when we misinterpret
auditory sensory information. In other words, auditory illusions tell
us more about auditory cognition than they do about auditory sensory
processing: it is our assumptions (about the real world) that lead us
astray when we think we perceive an auditory illusion. Any auditory
effect (e.g., the missing fundamental) that can be reasonably well
understood as a consequence of what we know about peripheral auditory
processing is, I would suggest, not an auditory illusion. The sensory
information is not being 'distorted' or misinterpreted in any way in
these cases; our brainstems and brains are only trying to give the
best answer to sometimes conflicting or missing information.
No doubt some people may not agree with me; however, in the absence of
a good working definition, any discussion of auditory illusions will
be severely limited.
On Aug 2 2011, Ranjit Randhawa wrote:
In my opinion the most enduring (over 200 years) of all auditory
"illusions" is what has been called the "missing fundamental". The
fact that this has not been satisfactorily resolved by the tortured
use of existing signal processing techniques leads some, including
yours truly, to believe that the auditory system has figured out a
unique way to do frequency analysis and to meet the dictum in biology
that "form follows function". Taking into account where we are and
the discussions that take place, e.g. this forum, it is interesting
that there has been no discussion as to why the cochlear has the
shape it does. Therefore some experimental phenomenon that we may
call as an illusion, could have a very natural consequence of how
frequency analysis is done. One is lead to believe that we are truly
very far from understanding how the auditory system works and
therefore hearing aid designs are a bit of a hoax foisted on the
"proletariat". Sorry if I sound a bit harsh, but I think it is time
people recognized that the emperor has not clothes.
On 7/30/2011 3:16 AM, Nedra Floyd-Pautler, LLC wrote:
My apologies for an over-active spell checker that changed "people"
to "proletariat" in my recent posting. Below is the message I
intended to send:
I'm a science writer/audiologist researching an article on auditory
illusions. What value do they have "on the ground" for people with
hearing deficits? Do what they tells us about the brain and hearing
have application to hearing aid design?
José Ignacio Alcántara, PhD
Department of Experimental Psychology
University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB2 3EB
Tel: +44 (0)1223 764412
Fellow of Fitzwilliam College
Cambridge CB3 0DG
Tel: +44 (0)1223 472126