Predicting the timing of dynamic events through sound: Bouncing balls
Dynamic information in acoustical signals produced by bouncing objects is often used by listeners to predict the objects’ future behavior (e.g., hitting a ball). This study examined factors that affect the accuracy of motor responses to sounds of real-world dynamic events. In experiment 1, listeners heard 2–5 bounces from a tennis ball, ping-pong, basketball, or wiffle ball, and would tap to indicate the time of the next bounce in a series. Across ball types and number of bounces, listeners were extremely accurate in predicting the correct bounce time (CT) with a mean prediction error of only 2.58% of the CT. Prediction based on a physical model of bouncing events indicated that listeners relied primarily on temporal cues when estimating the timing of the next bounce, and to a lesser extent on the loudness and spectral cues. In experiment 2, the timing of each bounce pattern was altered to correspond to the bounce timing pattern of another ball, producing stimuli with contradictory acoustic cues. Nevertheless, listeners remained highly accurate in their estimates of bounce timing. This suggests that listeners can adopt their estimates of bouncing-object timing based on acoustic cues that provide most veridical information about dynamic aspects of object behavior.