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Learning and retention of associations between auditory icons and denotative referents: implications for the design of auditory warnings

Learning and retention of associations between auditory icons and denotative referents: implications for the design of auditory warnings

Human Factors 48(2): 288-299

This study examined the way in which the type and preexisting strength of association between an auditory icon and a warning event affects the ease with which the icon/event pairing can be learned and retained. To be effective, an auditory warning must be audible, identifiable, interpretable, and heeded. Warnings consisting of familiar environmental sounds, or auditory icons, have potential to facilitate identification and interpretation. The ease with which pairings between auditory icons and warning events can be learned and retained is likely to depend on the type and strength of the preexisting icon/event association. Sixty-three participants each learned eight auditory-icon/denotative-referent pairings and attempted to recall them 4 weeks later. Three icon/denotative-referent association types (direct, related, and unrelated) were employed. Participants rated the strength of the association for each pairing on a 7-point scale. The number of errors made while learning pairings was greater for unrelated than for either related or direct associations, whereas the number of errors made while attempting to recall pairings 4 weeks later was greater for unrelated than for related associations and for related than for direct associations. Irrespective of association type, both learning and retention performance remained at very high levels, provided the strength of the association was rated greater than 5. This suggests that strong preexisting associations are used to facilitate learning and retention of icon/denotative-referent pairings. The practical implication of this study is that auditory icons having either direct or strong, indirect associations with warning events should be preferred.

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Accession: 049459067

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 16884050

DOI: 10.1518/001872006777724426

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