Auditory Icons: Using Sound in Computer Interfaces

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409 Citations (Scopus)


There is growing interest in the use of sound to convey information in computer interfaces. The strategies employed thus far have been based on an understanding of sound that leads to either an arbitrary or metaphorical relation between the sounds used and the data to be represented. In this article, an alternative approach to the use of sound in computer interfaces is outlined, one that emphasizes the role of sound in conveying information about the world to the listener. According to this approach, auditory icons, caricatures of naturally occurring sounds, could be used to provide information about sources of data. Auditory icons provide a natural way to represent dimensional data as well as conceptual objects in a computer system. They allow categorization of data into distinct families, using a single sound. Perhaps the most important advantage of this strategy is that it is based on the way people listen to the world in their everyday lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-177
JournalHuman-Computer Interaction
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1986

Research Group keywords

  • Interaction Research Studio

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