Lab 3: The Synthetic Psychology of Sound Localization

Purpose of the lab

The goal of this lab is to explore the cognitive science of sound localization. Sound localization refers to the ability of humans and many other animals to perceive aspects of the 3D properties of the world using your ears. This is a pretty amazing fact that we often take for granted. In addition, our understanding of how our brains accomplish this has practical implications. For example, recent entertainment technologies like "3D Sound" can enhance the experience of watching television or a movie.

Sound localization is particularly interesting in the context of this course because research on this ability involves all three levels of David Marr's taxonomy: the computational level, the mechanism level, and the implementation level. Engineers and physicists interested in developing artificial systems to localize sound developed an understanding of the general problems that needed to be solved. Psychologists performed experiments on animals and humans understanding which cues were important for listeners in correctly localizing sound. Finally, neuroscientists identified individual neurons and neural circuits which support the computations that engineers had supposed would be important for doing sound localization. Thus, it stands as an excellent example of a complete, integrated theory of how (and why) people work the way that they do.


This lab will take place over the next couple weeks and involves seven tasks (click to view each section):

Copyright © 2013 Todd Gureckis, Diagrams and schematics of the Parallax robot come from the Parallax website, much excellent material was taken from David Heeger's course notes on sound localization