A pioneering scientist from our Department of Psychology collaborating with researchers from University of Birmingham, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands and World Access for the Blind, Placentia, USA have discovered for the first time that human echolocators have better acuity in localising a target placed 45° off to the side as compared to straight ahead at 0°.
Echolocation occurs when a sound is emitted and then bounces off objects in the environment, returning echoes that provide information about the surrounding space.
It is best known from bats but is also used by people who are blind and who may use echolocation to judge spaces and improve their navigation skills.
The researchers revealed in their new study that echolocation performance is improved at 45° where people can better locate targets based on echoes.
They carried out the experiment among nine adults who are blind and who use echolocation based on mouth clicks on a daily basis.
They discovered that better echolocation sideways at 45° angle might be explained by the difference in intensity of the echoes between the two ears.
The study results provide useful guidance for echolocation instructors and new users where they can turn their head away to locate objects and targets more accurately.
Their research findings indicate that human echolocation and human regular spatial hearing might be governed by different principles.
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