Normally, the apparent position of a sound source corresponds closely to its actual position. However, in some experimental situations listeners make large errors, such as indicating that a source in the frontal hemifield appears to be in the rear hemifield, or vice versa. These front–back confusions are thought to be a result of the inherent ambiguity of the primary interaural difference cues, interaural time difference (ITD) in particular. A given ITD could have been produced by a sound source anywhere on the so-called “cone of confusion.” More than 50 years ago Wallach [J. Exp. Psychol. 27, 339–368 (1940)] argued that small head movements could provide the information necessary to resolve the ambiguity. The direction of the change in ITD that accompanies a head rotation is an unambiguous indicator of the proper hemifield. The experiments reported here are a modern test of Wallach’s hypothesis. Listeners indicated the apparent positions of real and virtual sound sources in conditions in which head movements were either restricted or encouraged. The front–back confusions made in the restricted condition nearly disappeared in the condition in which head movements were encouraged. In a second experiment head movements were restricted, but the sound source was moved, either by the experimenter or by the listener. Only when the listener moved the sound source did front–back confusions disappear. The results clearly support Wallach’s hypothesis and suggest further that head movements are not required to produce the dynamic cues needed to resolve front–back ambiguity.
Skip Nav Destination
May 01 1999
Resolution of front–back ambiguity in spatial hearing by listener and source movement
Frederic L. Wightman;
Frederic L. Wightman, Doris J. Kistler; Resolution of front–back ambiguity in spatial hearing by listener and source movement. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 May 1999; 105 (5): 2841–2853. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.426899
Download citation file: