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Human echolocation: Blind and sighted persons' ability to detect sounds recorded in the presence of a reflecting object
Blekinge Institute of Technology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2010 (English)In: Perception, ISSN 0301-0066, E-ISSN 1468-4233, Vol. 39, no 4, 483-501 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research suggests that blind people are superior to sighted in echolocation, but systematic psychoacoustic studies on environmental conditions such as distance to objects, signal duration, and reverberation are lacking. Therefore, two experiments were conducted. Noise bursts of 5, 50, or 500 ms were reproduced by a loudspeaker on an artificial manikin in an ordinary room and in an anechoic chamber. The manikin recorded the sounds binaurally in the presence and absence of a reflecting 1.5-mm thick aluminium disk, 0.5 in in diameter, placed in front, at distances of 0.5 to 5 m. These recordings were later presented to ten visually handicapped and ten sighted people, 30 62 years old, using a 2AFC paradigm with feedback. The task was to detect which of two sounds that contained the reflecting object. The blind performed better than the sighted participants. All performed well with the object at < 2 in distance. Detection increased with longer signal durations. Performance was slightly better in the ordinary room than in the anechoic chamber. A supplementary experiment on the two best blind persons showed that their superior performance at distances > 2 m was not by chance. Detection thresholds showed that blind participants could detect the object at longer distances in the conference room than in the anechoic chamber, when using the longer-duration sounds and also as compared to the sighted people. Audiometric tests suggest that equal hearing in both ears is important for echolocation. Possible echolocation mechanisms are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 39, no 4, 483-501 p.
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-49220DOI: 10.1068/p6473ISI: 000278281300004OAI: diva2:376860
authorCount :2Available from: 2010-12-13 Created: 2010-12-13 Last updated: 2010-12-13Bibliographically approved

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Nilsson, Mats E.
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