Embodied psychoacoustics: Spatial and multisensory determinants of auditory-induced emotion

Abstract: The research presented in this thesis focuses on auditory perception, bringing together traditional psychoacoustics, emotion, embodiment and multisensory research. In particular, the current research explored how sound, and the interpretation the listener makes of it, induces emotions in people. This interpretation depends not only on the physical attributes of the sound but also on whether a listener identifies the source producing this sound. Importantly, this interpretation also depends on the information available from other sensory modalities and on additional information that the listener can extract from sound regarding his physical position with respect to the source and the surrounding physical space. Paper A assessed the effects of perceived distance to stimuli on emotional experience using auditory-vibrotactile stimuli associated with a person’s own body (heartbeats). The main focus of Paper B was on auditory-vibrotactile interactions when localizing sound in the median plane. Paper C dealt with auditory-electrocutaneous interactions in the space close to one’s head: the effects of perceived location and distance to sound, the stimulated body surface and acoustic spectra of stimuli. Paper D investigated the emotional effect of sound intensity changes simulating motion and its perceived direction with respect to listeners. Papers A and D also investigated cross-modal emotional spillover effects occurring between auditory, vibrotactile and visual stimuli. Finally, Paper E explored the effects of the perceived auditory space and perceived location of sound sources on the emotional response to ecologic and synthetic sounds. Overall, it was found that sound objects (or events) perceived in a close, peripersonal space, located in the space outside one’s visual field or perceived as approaching oneself elicit more intense experiences than other sound stimuli. The perceived auditory space surrounding listeners also modulates their emotional responses to sound sources. Taken together, the current research attempts to bring the field of psychoacoustics closer to our everyday, ecological perception of objects and events. Extending psychoacoustics research to everyday sounds and considering the meaning people attribute to sound and the context where sounds are heard, their emotional coloration, cross-modal effects and the role that sounds play on embodied perception, we might get to a better understanding of the complexities of auditory perception.

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