Sound perception and the importance of context

A study published this week in Nature Neuroscience takes a fresh look at how context impacts the way in which we respond to sound stimuli. The results show that the underlying neuroscience is both complex and surprising.Identical sounds can be perceived entirely differently, depending on context. During a football match, if we hear someone shouting at the top of their lungs, we might not be particularly perturbed. However, if we heard the exact same shouting while reading in a library, our reaction is likely to be significantly more intense. Scientists have long known that we respond to auditory stimuli in a context-specific way. Our reaction to the sound of a car horn, for instance, elicits a different response if we hear it…

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