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Sound field

Dear List,

One could make an argument that the answer to Peter's question about the use
of "field" in perceptual research is exactly the opposite of the one
proposed by Jan and Sigurd.

The Gestalt psychologists and other researchers in vision used the
expression "visual field" to refer to the total sensory information
available to eye of the observer, without the observer's moving.  So an
object could be "within" the viewer's visual field, at any definite moment,
or "outside" it.

The visual environment would be all the light-emitting or reflecting
surfaces surrounding the observer, whether within his visual field or not.
The use of the word "field" by the Gestaltists also implied some interaction
of the array of information with "forces" propagating as if in a field.

By analogy, one could talk of another perceptual field, the "auditory field"
that would consist of all the sounds currently affecting the listener's
ears, perhaps extended over some short time window.  Again one could talk
about sounds that were "outside the field" (e.g., too far away, too soft).
And again there would be the assumption that the sound components interacted
in perception, rather than acting independently.

By contrast the "auditory environment" would be the array of potentially
audible acoustic energy surrounding the listener.

There probably isn't any principled reason to prefer one type of terminology
over another.  The literature is not flooded with articles using a preferred
definition.  My advice to Peter would be to use any plausible definition,
but to tell his readers how he was defining the terms, and then to make sure
that his argument always respected those definitions.

Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor
Dept of Psychology, McGill University
1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue
Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1

Tel:  +1 (514) 398-6103
Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896