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The Incongruency Advantage for Sounds in Natural Scenes

This research tests identification of environmental sounds (dogs barking or cars honking) in familiar auditory background scenes (street ambience, restaurants). Initial results with subjects trained on both the background scenes and the sounds to be identified showed a significant advantage of about 5% better identification accuracy for sounds that were incongruous with the background scene (e.g., a rooster crowing in a hospital). Studies with naïve listeners showed this effect is level-dependent: there is no advantage for incongruent sounds up to a Sound/Scene ratio (So/Sc) of -7.5 dB, after which there is again about 5% better identification. Modeling using spectral-temporal measures showed that saliency based on acoustic features cannot account for this difference.

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