Conceptual priming for realistic auditory scenes and for auditory words

Authors: Frey A., Aramaki M., Besson M.
Publication Date: February 2014
Journal: Brain and Cognition (vol. 84(1), pp. 141-152, 2014)

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Two experiments were conducted using both behavioral and Event-Related brain Potentials methods to examine conceptual priming effects for realistic auditory scenes and for auditory words. Prime and target sounds were presented in four stimulus combinations: Sound–Sound, Word–Sound, Sound–Word and Word–Word. Within each combination, targets were conceptually related to the prime, unrelated or ambiguous. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to judge whether the primes and targets fit together (explicit task) and in Experiment 2 they had to decide whether the target was typical or ambiguous (implicit task). In both experiments and in the four stimulus combinations, reaction times and/or error rates were longer/higher and the N400 component was larger to ambiguous targets than to conceptually related targets, thereby pointing to a common conceptual system for processing auditory scenes and linguistic stimuli in both explicit and implicit tasks. However, fine-grained analyses also revealed some differences between experiments and conditions in scalp topography and duration of the priming effects possibly reflecting differences in the integration of perceptual and cognitive attributes of linguistic and nonlinguistic sounds. These results have clear implications for the building-up of virtual environments that need to convey meaning without words.


• Explicit and implicit conceptual priming for linguistic and nonlinguistic sounds.
• Similar conceptual priming effects were found in RTs, % errors and ERPs.
• Reflected in topography, latency and duration were also found.
• Different perceptual processing reflected in ERPs topography, latency and duration.
• Smaller effects in implicit than explicit task.

Sound examples of auditory environmental scenes

These sounds were generated with the spatialized sound synthesizer developed in our team.

Typical scenes:

Ambiguous scenes:

Fire / Wind scene