Abstract John Neuhoff 12th June 2014

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In a natural listening environment the ability to perceive and respond to rapidly approaching objects can have life or death consequences. Looming objects can indicate threats or opportunities that require the initiation of specific behavioural responses either to avoid, intercept, or otherwise prepare for the approaching object. Thus, looming sounds have a privileged perceptual status compared to equivalent receding or stationary sounds. In this talk I will present behavioural, comparative, and neurophysiological evidence that suggests that preferential responding to looming sounds is an adaptive trait that provides advanced warning of looming danger. However, the “looming bias” is also malleable and can be modulated by emotion, gender, and even physical fitness. It is reflected in areas that include music composition, speech, and understanding elementary physics. From an applied perspective, the robust perceptual bias makes looming sounds excellent candidates for auditory warnings or directing visual attention in real and virtual environments.

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