Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 57–65 | Cite as

Judging crowds’ size by ear and by eye in virtual reality

  • Marine TaffouEmail author
  • Jan Ondřej
  • Carol O’Sullivan
  • Olivier Warusfel
  • Isabelle Viaud-Delmon
Original Paper


Judging the size of a group of people is an everyday task, on which many decisions are based. In the present study, we investigated whether judgment of size of different groups of people depended on whether they were presented through the auditory channel, through the visual channel, or through both auditory and visual channels. Groups of humanoids of different sizes (from 8 to 128) were presented within a virtual environment to healthy participants. They had to judge whether there was a lot of people in each group and rate their discomfort in relation to the stimuli with Subjective Units of Distress. Our groups of 96 and 128 virtual humans were judged as crowds regardless of their sensory presentation. The sensory presentation influenced participants’ judgment of virtual human group size ranging from 8 to 48. Moreover, while the quantity judgments in the auditory condition increased linearly with the group size, participants judged the quantity of people in a logarithmic manner in the two other sensory conditions. These results suggest that quantity judgment based on auditory information in a realistic context may often involve implicit arithmetic. Even though our participants were not phobic of crowds, our findings are of interest for the field of virtual reality-based therapy for diverse disorders because they indicate that quantity judgment can potentially be altered in a sensory-specific manner in patients with fear of crowds.


Quantity judgment Sensory modality Auditory-visual Crowd Virtual reality Humanoids 



This research was supported by the EU FP7-ICT-2011-7 project VERVE (, Grant no 288910. This work was performed within the Labex SMART (ANR-11-LABX-65) supported by French state funds managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche within the Investissements d’Avenir programme under reference ANR-11-IDEX-0004-02. The research leading to these results has also received funding from the program “Investissements d’avenir” ANR-10-IAIHU-06. We thank Thibaut Carpentier and Kévin Perros for their work on the elaboration of the auditory component of the virtual environment. We thank Camille Frey and Cassandra Visconti who contributed to the experimentation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Fyer AJ, Mannuzza S, Martin LY, Gallops MS, Endicott J, Schleyer B, Gorman JM, Liebowitz MR, Klein DF (1989) Reliability of anxiety assessment. II. Symptom agreement. Arch Gen Psychiatry 46(12):1102–1110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mazumder R, Lambert WE, Nguyen T, Bourdette DN, Cameron MH (2015) Fear of falling is associated with recurrent falls in people with multiple sclerosis: a longitudinal cohort study. Int J MS Care 17(4):164–170. doi: 10.7224/1537-2073.2014-042 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Botella C, Martin H Villa, García-Palacios A, Baños RM, Perpiñá C, Alcañiz M (2004) Clinically significant virtual environments for the treatment of panic disorder and agoraphobia. Cyberpsychol Behav 7(5):527–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Botella C, Martin H Villa, Baños RM, Quero S, Alcañiz M, Riva G (2007) Virtual reality exposure in the treatment of panic disorder and agoraphobia: a controlled study. Clin Psychol Psychother 14:164–175. doi: 10.1002/cpp CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Malbos E, Rapee RM, Kavakli M (2012) A controlled study of agoraphobia and the independent effect of virtual reality exposure therapy. Aust NZ J Psychiatry 47(2):160–168. doi: 10.1177/0004867412453626 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Moore K, Wiederhold BK, Wiederhold MD, Riva G (2002) Panic and agoraphobia in a virtual world. Cyberpsychol Behav 5(3):197–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Pelissolo A, Zaoui M, Aguayo G, Yao SN, Roche S, Ecochard R, Cottraux J (2012) Virtual reality exposure therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy for panic disorder with agoraphobia: a randomized comparison study. J Cyberther Rehabil 5(1):35–43Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Martin H Villa, Botella C, Garcia-Palacios A, Osma J (2007) Virtual reality exposure in the treatment of panic disorder with agoraphobia: a case study. Cognit Behav Pract 14(1):58–69. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpra.2006.01.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Vincelli F, Anolli L, Bouchard S, Wiederhold BK, Zurloni V, Riva G (2003) Experiential cognitive therapy in the treatment of panic disorders with agoraphobia: a controlled study. Cyberpsychol Behav 6(3):321–328. doi: 10.1089/109493103322011632 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Klinger E, Bouchard S, Légeron P, Roy S, Lauer F, Chemin I, Nugues P (2005) Virtual reality therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy for social phobia: a preliminary controlled study. Cyberpsychol Behav 8(1):76–88. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2005.8.76 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pertaub DP, Slater M, Barker C (2002) An experiment on public speaking anxiety in response to three different types of virtual audience. Presence Teleop Virtual Environ 11(1):68–78. doi: 10.1162/105474602317343668 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Slater M, Pertaub DP, Steed A (1999) Public speaking in virtual reality: facing an audience of avatars. IEEE Comput Graph Appl 19(2):6–9. doi: 10.1109/38.749116 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Slater M, Pertaub DP, Barker C, Clark DM (2006) An experimental study on fear of public speaking using a virtual environment. Cyberpsychol Behav 9(5):627–33. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2006.9.627 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Arrighi R, Togoli I, Burr DC (2014) A generalized sense of number. Proc Royal Soc B 281:20141791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Burr D, Ross J (2008) A visual sense of number. Curr Biol 18(6):425–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Butterworth B (2008) Numerosity perception: how many speckles on the hen? Curr Biol 18(9):R388–R389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Feigenson L, Dehaene S, Spelke E (2004) Core systems of number. Science 8(7):307–14. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.05.002 Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gallistel CR, Gelman R (2000) Non-verbal numerical cognition: from reals to integers. Trends Cognit Sci 4(2):59–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Whalen J, Gallistel CR, Gelman R (1999) Nonverbal counting in humans: the psychophysics of number representation. Psychol Sci 10(2):130–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Wynn K (1998) Psychological foundations of number: numerical competence in human infants. Trends Cognit Sci 2(8):296–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Barth H, Kanwisher N, Spelke E (2003) The construction of large number representations in adults. Cognition 86:201–221Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Tokita M, Ashitani Y, Ishiguchi A (2013) Is approximate numerical judgment truly modality-independent? Visual, auditory, and cross-modal comparisons. Atten Percept Psychophys 75(8):1852–1861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Moeck T, Bonneel N, Tsingos N, Drettakis G, Viaud-Delmon I, Alloza D (2007) Progressive perceptual audio rendering of complex scenes. In: Proceedings of the 2007 symposium on Interactive 3D graphics and games. Seattle, Washington, April 30-May 02, 2007Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Sarlat L, Warusfel O, Viaud-Delmon I (2006) Ventriloquism aftereffects occur in the rear hemisphere. Neurosci Lett 404(3):324–329. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2006.06.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    O’Sullivan C, Ennis C (2011) Metropolis: multisensory simulation of a populated city. In: 2011 third international conference on games and virtual worlds for serious applications (VS-GAMES), pp 1–7. IEEE, May 2011Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Spielberger CD, Gorsuch RL, Lushene PR, Vagg PR, Jacobs AG (1983) Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory (form Y). Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo AltoGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Wolpe J (1973) The practice of behavior therapy, 2nd edn. Pergamon, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Botella C, Baños RM, Perpiñá C, Martin H Villa, Alcañiz M, Rey A (1998) Virtual reality treatment of claustrophobia: a case report. Behav Res Ther 36(2):239–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Bouchard S, Côté S, St-Jacques J, Robillard G, Renaud P (2006) Effectiveness of virtual reality exposure in the treatment of arachnophobia using 3D games. Technol Health Care Off J Eur Soc Eng Med 14(1):19–27Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Rothbaum BO, Hodges LF, Kooper R, Opdyke D, Williford JS, North MM (1995) Virtual reality graded exposure in the treatment of acrophobia: a case report. Behav Ther 26:547–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Banks WP, Coleman MJ (1981) Two subjective scales of number. Percept Psychophys 29(2):95–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Dehaene S, Izard V, Spelke E, Pica P (2008) Log or linear? Distinct intuitions of the number scale in Western and Amazonian indigene cultures. Science 320(5880):1217–1220. doi: 10.1126/science.1156540 MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Izard V, Dehaene S (2008) Calibrating the mental number line. Cognition 106(3):1221–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Castronovo J, Seron X (2007) Numerical estimation in blind subjects: evidence for the impact of blindness and its following experience. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 33(5):1089–1106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Castronovo J, Delvenne JF (2013) Superior numerical abilities following early visual deprivation. Cortex 49(5):1435–1440CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© SIP 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marine Taffou
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jan Ondřej
    • 3
  • Carol O’Sullivan
    • 3
  • Olivier Warusfel
    • 1
  • Isabelle Viaud-Delmon
    • 1
  1. 1.Sciences et Technologies de la Musique et du Son, CNRS UMR 9912, IRCAMSorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06ParisFrance
  2. 2.Social and Affective Neuroscience (SAN) Laboratory, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, ICM, Inserm, U 1127, CNRS UMR 7225Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06 UMR S 1127ParisFrance
  3. 3.School of Computer Science and StatisticsTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

Personalised recommendations