Sound field (Al Bregman )

Subject: Sound field
From:    Al Bregman  <BREGMAN(at)HEBB.PSYCH.MCGILL.CA>
Date:    Mon, 4 Dec 2000 17:32:06 -0500

Dear List, One could make an argument that the answer to Peter's question about the use of "field" in perceptual research is exactly the opposite of the one proposed by Jan and Sigurd. The Gestalt psychologists and other researchers in vision used the expression "visual field" to refer to the total sensory information available to eye of the observer, without the observer's moving. So an object could be "within" the viewer's visual field, at any definite moment, or "outside" it. The visual environment would be all the light-emitting or reflecting surfaces surrounding the observer, whether within his visual field or not. The use of the word "field" by the Gestaltists also implied some interaction of the array of information with "forces" propagating as if in a field. By analogy, one could talk of another perceptual field, the "auditory field" that would consist of all the sounds currently affecting the listener's ears, perhaps extended over some short time window. Again one could talk about sounds that were "outside the field" (e.g., too far away, too soft). And again there would be the assumption that the sound components interacted in perception, rather than acting independently. By contrast the "auditory environment" would be the array of potentially audible acoustic energy surrounding the listener. There probably isn't any principled reason to prefer one type of terminology over another. The literature is not flooded with articles using a preferred definition. My advice to Peter would be to use any plausible definition, but to tell his readers how he was defining the terms, and then to make sure that his argument always respected those definitions. Al ------------------------------------------------- Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor Dept of Psychology, McGill University 1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1 Tel: +1 (514) 398-6103 Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896 bregman(at) -------------------------------------------------

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