June 2006
Volume 6, Issue 6
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2006
Ambient sounds can enhance visual perception and memory performance in virtual environments
Author Affiliations
  • Elizabeth T. Davis
    Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Kevin Scott
    Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Kenneth W. Hailston
    Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Jarrell Pair
    Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Larry Hodges
    Georgia Institute of Technology
Journal of Vision June 2006, Vol.6, 170. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/6.6.170
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      Elizabeth T. Davis, Kevin Scott, Kenneth W. Hailston, Jarrell Pair, Larry Hodges; Ambient sounds can enhance visual perception and memory performance in virtual environments. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):170. https://doi.org/10.1167/6.6.170.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Purposes: Does the addition of audio enhance visual perception and memory performance within a virtual environment (VE)? Can ambient sounds boost subjective 3D quality of the visual display? Can they facilitate a sense of “being there”? Can they enhance recall and recognition of visual objects and their locations?

Method: To answer these questions 60 students, with normal vision and hearing, were tested within a VE consisting of four rooms. Each room had a different wall color with furnishings that included a bookcase filled with outline pictures of objects from different categories (Snodgrass & Vanderwart, 1980). Subjects either perused each room for 3 minutes in silence or while listening to a unique low- or high-fidelity sound associated with the room (e.g., thunderstorm in yellow room). Afterward, they filled out a questionnaire form, and then recalled the objects seen in each room. Finally, in a forced-choice recognition test they matched each object to a specific room.

Results and Discussion: Ambient sounds significantly increased the subjective 3D quality of a visual display as well as enhancing the sense of “being there.” Adding audio can effectively compensate for low visual fidelity of typical VEs used in psychotherapy and entertainment, with a smaller increment in bandwidth than upgrading the visual display's temporal and spatial resolutions. Moreover, high-fidelity audio resulted in better recall and recognition performance than low-fidelity or no audio conditions. The multi-modal display creates a richer perceptual environment to anchor objects to specific locations within the environment, thus enhancing recognition and recall.

Davis, E. T. Scott, K. Hailston, K. W. Pair, J. Hodges, L. (2006). Ambient sounds can enhance visual perception and memory performance in virtual environments [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 6(6):170, 170a, http://journalofvision.org/6/6/170/, doi:10.1167/6.6.170. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
 Supported by the National Science Foundation

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