(Kevin Baker )

From:    Kevin Baker  <klb(at)DE-MONTFORT.AC.UK>
Date:    Fri, 27 May 1994 10:53:04 +0100

This is a general question The mini-FAQ which was posted recently has just jogged my memory of a nagging question which I had put to the back of my mind for some time. Here goes: It seems to me that trying to get a 'perceptual equivalence' for intensity and pitch, in the form of equal loudness curves, is always going to be problematic. We have evolved to use pitch and loudness as complementary cues. Saying that a low pitched noise sounds as loud as a high pitched noise tells us two things: (1) that the low pitched sound was made by larger and more slowly vibrating materials on impact; and (2) that the higher pitched sound is closer (as high frequencies attenuate with distance). Of course, pitch is not a sole cue for the nature of the sound making event (as loudness tells us about the energy and vibratory nature of the materials involved). Similarly, loudness is not a sole cue for the distance of the event (as spectral changes can also indicate the direction and distance). But how can equal loudness curves using simple tones indicate the perceptual processes which exploit these cues? In the end, I suppose my query is twofold: (1) How much does the 'equal loudness' curve vary across individuals and within individuals during lifespan? If it varies alot then it can't be THAT important - it may be more prudent to investigate how we LEARN to use this information by higher level processes. (2) How does our knowledge about equal loudness curves allow us to infer anything more than a basic psycophysical model of hearing simple/pure tones at varying frequencies and amplitudes? Or: Have I missed something? Kevin L. Baker Dept. Human Communication De Montfort University, Leicester, UK Tel: +44 533 577761 Fax: +44 533 577708 email: k.baker(at)dmu.ac.uk

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