Evidence that the auditory system contains specialised motion detectors is mixed. Many psychophysical studies confound speed cues with distance and duration cues and present sound sources that do not appear to move in external space. Here we use the 'discrimination contours' technique to probe the probabilistic combination of speed, distance and duration for stimuli moving in a horizontal arc around the listener in virtual auditory space. The technique produces a set of motion discrimination thresholds that define a contour in the distance-duration plane for different combination of the three cues, based on a 3-interval oddity task. The orientation of the contour (typically elliptical in shape) reveals which cue or combination of cues dominates. If the auditory system contains specialised motion detectors, stimuli moving over different distances and durations but defining the same speed should be more difficult to discriminate. The resulting discrimination contours should therefore be oriented obliquely along iso-speed lines within the distance-duration plane. However, we found that over a wide range of speeds, distances and durations, the ellipses aligned with distance-duration axes and were stretched vertically, suggesting that listeners were most sensitive to duration. A second experiment showed that listeners were able to make speed judgements when distance and duration cues were degraded by noise, but that performance was worse. Our results therefore suggest that speed is not a primary cue to motion in the auditory system, but that listeners are able to use speed to make discrimination judgements when distance and duration cues are unreliable. © 2014 Freeman et al.
Freeman, T. C. A., Leung, J., Wufong, E., Orchard-Mills, E., Carlile, S., & Alais, D. (2014). Discrimination contours for moving sounds reveal duration and distance cues dominate auditory speed perception. PLoS ONE, 9(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102864