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Fitch, W. T., & Kramer, G. (1994). Sonifying the body electric: Superiority of an auditory over a visual display in a complex, multivariate system. In G. Kramer (Ed.), Auditory Display: Sonification, Audification, and Auditory Interfaces (pp. 307–325). Reading MA: Addison-Wesley. 
Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard (9/16/05, 12:19 PM)   
Resource type: Book Chapter
BibTeX citation key: Fitch1994
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Categories: General
Keywords: Auditory Display, Sound objects
Creators: Fitch, Kramer
Publisher: Addison-Wesley (Reading MA)
Collection: Auditory Display: Sonification, Audification, and Auditory Interfaces
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"Recent advances in the technology of computer sound generation allow sound to play a new role in human/machine interfaces. However, few studies have investigated the use of sound to display complex data in a practical setting. In this paper we introduce an auditory display for physiological data and compare it experimentally with a standard visual display. Subjects (college students) played the role of anesthesiologists, attempting to keep a computer-simulated "digital patient" alive and healthy through a series of operating room emergencies. Both the task and the stimuli were complex: subjects had to monitor eight continuously changing variables simultaneously, to identify problems (indicated by changes in one or three variables at once), and then to correct those problems. We found that subjects performed faster and more accurately when using the auditory display than when using the visual display. This difference was most pronounced with multivariate changes. We hypothesize that the auditory advantage may result from the inherent ability of the auditory sustem to process multiple auditory "objects" or "streams" simultaneously in parallel, in contrast to the visual system's propensity for processing multiple objects serially. If correct, this idea has important implications for the use of sound in computer interfaces."
Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard  
An experiment demonstrating that an auditory display (in this case) is better suited for fast responses than an auditory display. The authors point to other studies that support their results. Other studies suggest that a combined audiovisual display produces slower responses than auditory alone while others suggest the opposite (although auditory alone is still quicker than visual). Still further studies mentioned here suggest that auditory displays, while they may lead to faster responses, produce less accurate responses. Clearly more research is required.
Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard  
p.308   The authors point out that the visual system is inherently spatial and that localisation of objects is critical. Conversely, while the ability to localise is of importance for the auditory system, we are able to stream audio and separate audio objects (although we can quite happily also appreciate composite sound) without the benefit of localisation cues. This is because the auditory system prioritises temporal cues.   Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard
Keywords:   Learning
pp.322–324   Based on the findings of the experiment, the authors suggest that the auditory system is faster because it can process data in parallel due to the fact that the human auditory system can hear in all directions. The visual system, they suggest, processes mainly in series because the eyes can move and focus, eyelids can be closed and because light cannot bend around objects.   Added by: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard