Human Echo Perception

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Science  10 Feb 1967:
Vol. 155, Issue 3763, pp. 656-664
DOI: 10.1126/science.155.3763.656


It has been shown that human test subjects have the ability, under controlled laboratory conditions, to use echoes to detect the presence or absence of targets placed before them. In addition, blind and sighted persons have been able to detect a target monaurally, to make simple shape discriminations, and to locate a target in space. Signal, environmental, and individual variability affect performance in a measurable fashion. This research is an initial step in measuring the limits of a human being's ability to use echoes as a source of information about his physical surroundings. At this point it seems unlikely that the unaided human ear can rival the bat's auditory system for echo perception. It may be, however, that modern technology can partially bridge the evolutionary gap and bring more useful echoes to man's ear than those it now receives. Such an accomplishment would allow us to examine the extent to which man might benefit from this means of sensing his environment.