Aero-tactile integration in speech perception

Aero-tactile integration in speech perception
Nature 462, 502-504 (26 November 2009)
Bryan Gick, & Donald Derrick

Visual information from a speaker’s face can enhance or interfere with accurate auditory perception.
This integration of information across auditory and visual streams has been observed in functional imaging studies, and has typically been attributed to the frequency and robustness with which perceivers jointly encounter event-specific information from these two modalities.
Adding the tactile modality has long been considered a crucial next step in understanding multisensory integration. However, previous studies have found an influence of tactile input on speech perception only under limited circumstances, either where perceivers were aware of the task or where they had received training to establish a cross-modal mapping. Here we show that perceivers integrate naturalistic tactile information during auditory speech perception without previous training.
Drawing on the observation that some speech sounds produce tiny bursts of aspiration (such as English ‘p’), we applied slight, inaudible air puffs on participants’ skin at one of two locations: the right hand or the neck. Syllables heard simultaneously with cutaneous air puffs were more likely to be heard as aspirated (for example, causing participants to mishear ‘b’ as ‘p’).
These results demonstrate that perceivers integrate event-relevant tactile information in auditory perception in much the same way as they do visual information.

journalistic version:
Sense Of Touch Can Help Hearing, Study Says
November 27, 2009

The study builds on decades of research showing that the brain often uses visual information to augment hearing. That’s why people in a noisy room are more likely to understand someone if they can see the speaker’s lips.

“From our brain’s point of view, we can hear with our eyes,” says Bryan Gick, a professor of phonetics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. But he and his colleague Donald Derrick wanted to see whether hearing could also be influenced by our sense of touch.

keyword: multisensory development



Big personalities that jump through the screen

Book Chronicles The Building Of Roger Ailes’ Fox News Empire
January 16, 2014

Chet famously told colleagues that you could hire someone for television by watching them with the sound off – and which is funny if you actually, you know, really don’t care what they’re saying. But that was his idea, is that people – you want to hire people who have big personalities that jump through the screen.


Perceptive expectation

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine
Barry C. Smith
Oxford University Press, 2007

Perceptive expectation

In the next set of experiments, Brochet invited 54 subjects to take part in a series of experiments in which they had to describe a real red wine and a real white wine. A few days later the same group had to describe the same white wine and this white wine again that had been colored red with a neutral-tasting food colorant.
Interestingly, in both experiments they described the “red” wine using identical terms even though one of them was actually a white wine.

Brochet’s conclusion was that the perception of taste and smell conformed to color: vision is having more of an input in the wine tasting process than most people would think.
Brochet points out a practical application of this observation, which has been known for a long time in the food and fragrance industries: no one sells colorless perfumes any more.

In a second, equally mischievous experiment, Brochet served the same average-quality wine to people at a week’s interval.
The twist was that on the first occasion it was packaged and served to people as a Vin de Table, and on the second as a Grand Cru wine.
So the subjects thought they were tasting a simple wine and then a very special wine, even though it was the same both times.
He analyzed the terms used in the tasting notes, and it makes telling reading. For the “Grand Cru” wine versus the Vin de Table, “a lot” replaces “a little”; “complex” replaces “simple”; and “balanced” replaces “unbalanced”–all because of the sight of the label.

Brochet explains the results through a phenomenon called “perceptive expectation“: a subject perceives what they have pre-perceived, and then they find it difficult to back away from that.
For us humans, visual information is much more important than chemosensory information

Frédéric Brochet
In this experiment the perception of fragrance and taste conformed to color.
This phenomena has been the object of an abundant literature (Maga, 1974, Dubose, 1980, Davis, 1981, Johnson, 1982, Zellner and Kautz, 1990 in the food processing field; and in the wine field  (André, 1970, Williams, 1984).

see also:

Why We Like What We Like
February 10, 2012
Context matters, and so do our attitudes and expectations. My dad used to say that Chinese food tastes better with chop sticks. And he was right. Not because he was snob, or deluded, but because he appreciated that enjoying the food is wrapped up with a way of thinking about it, handling it, chewing it.

Tips To Survive Airline Food

Flying This Holiday? Here Are A Few Tips To Survive Airline Food
December 22, 2013

the bigger obstacles to palatable fare in the air are biological: Our senses are scrambled at high altitudes.

Lack of humidity in the pressurized cabin dries out our nasal passages, dulling our sense of smell — a key component to how we perceive flavor.
Background noise — like the roar of a jet engine — can lessen our ability to perceive sweet and salty tastes, research from the U.K.’s University of Manchester has found.
Separate research from Lufthansa suggests our sweet and salty sensors might be off as much as 30 percent while in flight.

Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance.

Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 19. [Epub ahead of print]

Tsay CJ.
Department of Management Science and Innovation, Faculty of Engineering Science, University College London

Social judgments are made on the basis of both visual and auditory information, with consequential implications for our decisions.
To examine the impact of visual information on expert judgment and its predictive validity for performance outcomes, this set of seven experiments in the domain of music offers a conservative test of the relative influence of vision versus audition.
People consistently report that sound is the most important source of information in evaluating performance in music.
However, the findings demonstrate that people actually depend primarily on visual information when making judgments about music performance.
People reliably select the actual winners of live music competitions based on silent video recordings, but neither musical novices nor professional musicians were able to identify the winners based on sound recordings or recordings with both video and sound.

The results highlight our natural, automatic, and nonconscious dependence on visual cues.
The dominance of visual information emerges to the degree that it is overweighted relative to auditory information, even when sound is consciously valued as the core domain content.


  • cognition,
  • communication,
  • decision making,
  • evaluation,
  • social perception


Born on a Blue Day

A Look at an Autistic Savant’s Brilliant Mind
January 15, 2007

When Daniel Tammet thinks about numbers, each one has a distinct personality.
Thirty-seven is lumpy, for example; four is shy.
He has a rare form of autism that gives him astonishing mental powers, such as effortlessly calculating huge numbers in his head with the speed of a computer.

Author Daniel Tammet talks about his new book Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, and his amazing facility with numbers.

see also:

Asperger’s syndrome

Autistic Spectrum Disorder




Thinking in Numbers (BOOK)

Thinking in Numbers
On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math
by Daniel Tammet
August 11, 2013

Daniel Tammet. He’s a savant with synesthesia, a condition that allows him to see beyond simple numerals — he experiences them.

Tammet drew attention around the world about a decade ago when he recited, from memory, the number pi. It took him five hours to call out 22,514 digits with no mistakes.

On trying to calculate love

“The relationship that I have with [my mother] is intensely loving, of course, but complex. When I was a child on the autistic spectrum, there were many things that my mother did, or said, that I didn’t understand.
And I constructed something like a model, what mathematicians would call a predictive model, of her behavior, to create an imaginary mother. And of course, what I came to realize was that it was impossible. There was always a way in which my mum got around even the most sophisticated calculation, and so I came to realize that there are always going to be aspects of reality that go beyond our calculations.”

see also:

For Pianist, Music Unleashes Rainbows of Color

For Pianist, Music Unleashes Rainbows of Color
April 18, 2005

When pianist Laura Rosser performs, she hears more than sounds.
She hears colors — each note has its own associated hue.
Rosser has a rare neurological condition called synesthesia. Stimulation of one sense produces the sensation of another.

Each synesthete has a unique system of associations.
That means the periwinkle that Rosser associates with D-flat might be purple for another synesthete*.
Other synesthetes associate colors with letters and numbers. Rosser has this type of synesthesia as well.

5:34 individuals with synesthesia: their perceptual worlds have actually expanded.

*that forces you to recognize that the perceptual world that we experience is a perceptual world that is created by our brains.