Science and soundscape facts

SoundAppraisal is based on active scientific research. In our research we have learned many things that are on the one hand rather obvious, but that on the other hand have long been “overlooked”. On this page we address a number of conclusions that we confirmed scientifically.

What is sound annoyance?

In 2013 we wrote an article providing an overview of how sounds influence humans and animals. This influence is by and large subconscious, yet it becomes apparent in what we attend and ignore and in our moods and emotions. For example sound annoyance occurs when subconscious processes force the conscious parts to focus attention to something it deems irrelevant or unwanted (and hence ‘noise’). Interpreted like this, sound annoyance resembles an annoying child that constantly attracts attention. Only the child in this case is the subconscious part of the brain that is activated by some (annoying) sound.

Learn more

Audible safety

The reason the subconsious part of the brain draws attention to a sound is that one of its key roles is to warn in case of potential danger. When “primitive” unconscious sound processing indicates that the situation might not be completely safe, it recruits conscious processing for a more advanced analysis. We, in this case the unconscious sound processing systems, are rather safe than sorry. Basically, humans and animals like sounds that are indicative of safety, sounds of other individuals feeling safe, relaxed, or having fun. These sounds (unconsciously) help the listener to relax, enjoy, or focus attention. This explains why the blanket of non-natural sounds (such as traffic or machines) in our societies leads to a degradation of the soundscape quality: these sounds mask the pleasant (safety-indicative) sounds that we prefer. The results is that the auditory environment becomes more boring, less reassuring, and overall less pleasant.

Learn more

It's the source, not the decibel

In 2014, we showed that particular sound sources have predictable effects on how the sound will be appraised. Put differently, not every “decibel” has the same effect. For example the sound of cars do almost aways lead to a more chaotic interpretation of the auditory environment, and the sound of birds is mostly perceived as pleasant. These findings support the holistic soundscape approach to auditory perception and show that acoustic measures alone are not sufficient in determining the quality of our habitats.

Learn more

Want to know more?

Our researchers keep an up-to-date archive of their publications on ResearchGate. You can find full-text versions of most manuscripts on their profiles, see the buttons below. Don't hesitate to ask questions or request more information!

Tjeerd Andringa Kirsten van den Bosch Ronald van Elburg Arryon Tijsma