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New model for designing warning sounds

When designing warning systems with the aid of sound it is important to be able to predict the emotional reaction of human beings to specific sounds. This is important, for example, in ensuring that the alarm sound, the auditory alert, is appropriate for a particular situation.

In his PhD dissertation at Chalmers in Sweden, Anders Sköld has investigated the emotional reactions generated by various types of sound.

How happy or worried were you when you heard the sound? How stressed were you by the sound? These are questions that were put to subjects involved in a study conducted by Anders Sköld at the Department of Applied Acoustics at Chalmers. With the aid of two parameters - positive/negative response and calm/stress response - it is possible to determine the emotional reaction to a sound. This is a new and exciting means of evaluating sound in manufacturing industry.

"An auditory alert in a vehicle of an impending collision should be designed to make you feel extremely stressed and negative," says Anders Sköld. The sound telling you that you have received a text message on your mobile, however, should not make you stressed and should preferably induce a positive response."

He has examined both artificial sounds, such as beeps, and what are known as sound icons, which are auditory representations of real events. The sound of tyres screeching or a crashing sound could, for example, be used as a sound icon to warn of a possible collision.

The test subjects reported their reactions according to a scale. The results were then compared with the results from another study dealing with the physiological reactions of the test subjects to the different sounds. They were monitored with the aid of electrodes attached to the face: activity in the smile muscle indicates a positive reaction whilst activity in the muscle near the eyebrow indicates a negative reaction.

The level of stress was measured by finger sweat. The tests showed that the subjects' estimations of their emotional reactions concurred with their physiological reactions.

Using results from the two studies, Anders Sköld created a model for predicting emotional reactions based on the physical parameters in different sounds. The model can be used, for example, as a tool in conjunction with sound design in the automotive industry.

The dissertation "Integrative Analysis of Perception and Reaction to Information and Warning Sounds in Vehicles" was defended May 30.
The abstract in Chalmers Publication Library, CPL>>
Download press images here>>
Anders Sköld, Division of Applied Acoustics, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology
Tel: +4631-772 21 92 Mobile: +46706-93 17 79
Main supervisor: Professor Mendel Kleiner, Division of Applied Acoustics, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology
Tel: +4631-772 22 06
Co-supervisor: Daniel Vestfjäll, Division of Applied Acoustics, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology
Tel: +4631-772 22 06

Sofie Hebrand | idw
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