Emotional Influences on Auditory Perception and Attention
Doctoral thesis, 2014
The auditory perception is a fundamental part of our interactions with and experience of the external environment. We receive considerable amount of information from our surroundings through sounds. The auditory system takes care of this continuous flow of information in a seemingly effortless manner. It functions as an adaptive and cognitive alarm system that scans our surroundings, detects and analyzes the significant events, and signals for attention shifts to objects of interest. The research presented in this thesis focuses on the influence of emotions on the perception of sounds, and proposes that the affective experience is integral to the auditory perception. In particular, the current research explored how the affective qualities of auditory stimuli may modulate the way we attend to and perceive the sounds around us.
In Paper I, employing an affective learning paradigm, the author investigated whether the learned emotional meaning of an otherwise meaningless sound could influence the perception of a basic auditory feature: loudness. The main focus of Papers II and III was on the emotional modulations of spatial auditory perception. Paper II presents a study that set out to investigate whether the affective quality of sounds can provide exogenous cues of the orientation of spatial attention. Paper III concerns the potential of the auditory spatial information to possess emotional value and modulate attention. Finally, in Paper IV, the authors investigated the importance of the emotional information for the auditory perception in the presence of a complex environment with a number of concurrent sounds.
Overall, it was found that both the loudness perception and the spatial auditory perception can be modulated by emotional significance, and that auditory-induced emotion is constructed using the available information in the auditory stimuli involving the spatial dimension. Further, the current research provided evidence that the emotional salience provides cues for the allocation of attention in the auditory modality.
Taken together, the current research set out to investigate the influence of the emotional salience on auditory perception. Perception is our everyday tool to navigate our surrounding world; and the finding that emotions can modulate the way we perceive our surroundings may help to improve the quality of everyday environments that we all occupy.
auditory spatial attention