A mathematical approach to correlating objective spectro-temporal features of non-linguistic sounds with their subjective perceptions in humans

Thomas Burns, Ramesh Rajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Non-linguistic sounds (NLSs) are a core feature of our everyday life and many evoke powerful cognitive and emotional outcomes. The subjective perception of NLSs by humans has occasionally been defined for single percepts, e.g., their pleasantness, whereas many NLSs evoke multiple perceptions. There has also been very limited attempt to determine if NLS perceptions are predicted from objective spectro-temporal features. We therefore examined three human perceptions well-established in previous NLS studies (“Complexity,” “Pleasantness,” and “Familiarity”), and the accuracy of identification, for a large NLS database and related these four measures to objective spectro-temporal NLS features, defined using rigorous mathematical descriptors including stimulus entropic and algorithmic complexity measures, peaks-related measures, fractal dimension estimates, and various spectral measures (mean spectral centroid, power in discrete frequency ranges, harmonicity, spectral flatness, and spectral structure). We mapped the perceptions to the spectro-temporal measures individually and in combinations, using complex multivariate analyses including principal component analyses and agglomerative hierarchical clustering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number794
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2019


  • Auditory perception
  • Complexity
  • Environmental sounds
  • Non-linguistic sounds
  • Pleasantness
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Psychophysics
  • Subjective perception

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