When hearing biological movements reveals embodied motor properties: a new paradigm to study relations between gestures and sounds


  • Thoret Etienne
  • Conan Simon
  • Aramaki Mitsuko
  • Bringoux Lionel
  • Gondre Charles
  • Velay Jean-Luc
  • Ystad Sølvi
  • Kronland-Martinet Richard


  • Sound-gestures relations
  • Biological motions
  • Sound synthesis
  • Sound metaphors
  • Drawing movements
  • Auditory perception of drawing movements

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Listening to an auditory scene enables us to recognize a lot of events without even having to see them. For instance, a friend can often be recognized simply from the sounds of his or her footsteps. Understanding the links between the acoustical properties of sounds and the properties of the action imagined from them is a challenge that may help to understand how our sensorimotor interaction with the surrounding world constrains our perception. In this article we’ll present results of recent works on the acoustic characterization of a particular category of biological movements, namely drawing movements. In fact, if we listen carefully to the friction sounds produced by someone drawing, a movement can be perceived through the dynamic behaviour of the sounds. How do we interpret this movement imagined from a friction sound? Is it for instance possible to recognize whether or not it is a human movement and can the drawn shapes be deduced from the dynamics of such sounds? These questions might not seem important at first sight. However, as opposed to visual or kinaesthetic stimuli, monophonic sounds have the remarkable ability to transmit dynamic information independently from any geometric or spatial cues. Hence, investigating the movements imagined by someone who is listening to such sounds gives a unique opportunity to relate the properties of percepts to possible sensorimotor constraints. Highlighting a relation between drawing movements and auditory perception might thus provide a new experimental framework to study how the sensorimotor contingencies (SMC) (O’Regan & Noë, 2001) shape our sensory processes and behaviours.

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