Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 74, Issue 6, pp 1334-1342

First online:

Effects of expectations on loudness and loudness difference

  • Scott ParkerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, American University Email author 
  • , Julianne M. MooreAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, American University
  • , Sara BahrainiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, American University
  • , Kathleen GunthertAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, American University
  • , Debra A. ZellnerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Montclair State University


To determine how expectations affect loudness and loudness difference, in two experiments we induced some subjects to expect loud sounds (condition L), some to expect soft sounds (condition S), and others to have no particular expectations (control). In Experiment 1, all subjects estimated the loudnesses of the same set of three moderately loud 1-kHz tones. Estimates were greatest for subjects in condition S and smallest for subjects in condition L. Control subjects’ estimates were intermediate but closer to those of condition S subjects. In Experiment 2, subjects estimated the difference in loudness for pairs of moderately loud 1-kHz tones. Again, estimates were smallest for condition L subjects; estimates were greatest for control subjects, and condition S subjects’ estimates were closer to control estimates than to condition L estimates. This pattern of results is explainable by a combination of (1) Parducci’s (1995) range-frequency theory and (2) a gain control mechanism in the auditory system under top-down governance (Schneider, Parker, & Murphy, 2011).


Loudness Expectation