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Home Activities Seminar Series John Neuhoff: The perception of looming sounds (and why perceptual errors could save your life!)

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John Neuhoff: The perception of looming sounds (and why perceptual errors could save your life!)

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This seminar is presented in collaboration with Research Axis 3 (Cognition, perception and movement).

  • Seminar
When Nov 15, 2019
from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
Where A832, Elizabeth Wirth Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St. West
Contact Name
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Systematic perceptual errors can be advantageous. In a natural listening environment, a sound source that approaches a listener can present a threat or an opportunity that requires a rapid behavioral response. Acoustic cues specify the exact arrival time of looming sounds. However, almost all listeners exhibit a perceptual bias to hear looming sounds arrive when they are in fact still some distance away. I argue that this “auditory looming bias” is a behavioral adaptation that provides a selective advantage by giving advanced warning of approaching sound sources and thus, more time than expected to prepare for the arrival of the source. Such adaptive hypotheses about human behavior are often controversial and require rigorous converging evidence. I will discuss how evolved perceptual and cognitive biases can sometimes be more advantageous than accurate perception and present behavioral, developmental, comparative, neurophysiological, and sex differences data that all support an evolved perceptual bias in perceiving looming sounds.


John NeuhoffJohn Neuhoff is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at The College of Wooster.  He examines the intersection of auditory perception and the evolution of behavior. His work has appeared in Nature, Science, PNAS, and he has edited a volume entitled "Ecological Psychoacoustics." He is the current Chair of the Auditory Perception Cognition Society (APCS), the founding Chair of the Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action meeting (APCAM), and an amateur saxophonist.  

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