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Module PCP-3008:
Psychoacoustics & Aud Neuro

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Patricia Bestelmeyer

Overall aims and purpose

This module will provide an overview on how we hear (in a physiological sense) and which acoustic cues (e.g. pitch) we use to interpret the meaning of sound (How can you tell your boyfriend’s voice from your dad’s? If you can’t, email me!). This course builds up quickly from basic aspects of auditory cognition (e.g. sound localisation) to high-level aspects (e.g. voice or music perception).

This is a challenging, technical and multi-faceted module. Early lectures (1-4) will incorporate basic physics of sound, physiological basics of the auditory system as well as psychological theory trying to explain how we attribute meaning to sound “objects”. Later lectures (5-11) will cover the evolution of the auditory system, psychology and neuroscience of vocal attractiveness perception (What makes voices attractive?), vocal emotion perception (How can you tell your friend sounds happy on the phone?), accent perception (What does your accent say about you?), and the evolution and perception of music (What is music for? Why do we like it?). I will also discuss various types of pathology from lower-level hearing impairments (e.g. problems with the eardrum) to higher-level disorders such as amusia (the inability to discriminate even simple melodies) and phonagnosia (the inability to discriminate voices). Note that the module does not cover speech perception in any detail.

Lectures will cover a range of paradigms (e.g. adaptation) and techniques (e.g. psychophysics, neuroimaging) used to study auditory perception. Throughout the module I will discuss the similarities and differences between vision and audition (e.g. physiologically: auditory vs visual cortex; psychologically: voice vs face perception). The module will review classic papers in auditory psychology/neuroscience as well as the latest developments in this area.

Course content

Week 1 – The physics of sound

Week 2 – Auditory physiology

Week 3 – Perceptual experience of physical properties of sound

Week 4 – Auditory object perception

Week 5 – Comparative audition

Week 6 – No lecture but Oral Presentations

Week 7 – Voice production and perception

Week 8 – Vocal and facial attractiveness

Week 9 – Vocal emotion and accent perception

Week 10 – Music perception

Week 11 – When hearing goes wrong…

Assessment Criteria


Adequate answer to the question, largely based on lecture material. No real development of arguments.


Reasonably comprehensive coverage. Well organised and structured. Good understanding of the material.


Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area clarity of argument and expression. Depth of insight into theoretical issues.

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe the chain of events from sound waves to entering the ear, to the processing of acoustic information by the brain and be aware of the controversies and theories that surround this process.

  2. Understand how the auditory system perceives pitch, loudness, timbre and sound location.

  3. Understand how pitch and timbre contribute to auditory object recognition.

  4. Compare and contrast visual and auditory perception using current knowledge on face and voice perception as examples.

  5. Compare, contrast and appreciate the different techniques and approaches available to the investigation of auditory perception as well as understand their limitations.

  6. Give a critical presentation of a research article to peer-assessing fellow students.

  7. Apply peer assessment skills to oral presentations of fellow students.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Critique of a research article (oral presentation) 30
EXAM - short essays 70

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 31
Private study 169

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in oral form.
  • Be computer literate for the purpose of processing and disseminating psychological data and information.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Be sensitive and react appropriately to contextual and interpersonal psychological factors.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • Problem-solve by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions, making critical judgements, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.


Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: