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Human Echolocators Have Better Localization Off Axis

Thaler, Lore; Norman, L.J.; De Vos, H.P.J.C.; Kish, D.; Antoniou, M.; Baker, C.J.; Hornikx, M.C.J.

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H.P.J.C. De Vos

D. Kish

M. Antoniou

C.J. Baker

M.C.J. Hornikx


Here, we report novel empirical results from a psychophysical experiment in which we tested the echolocation abilities of nine blind adult human experts in click-based echolocation. We found that they had better acuity in localizing a target and used lower intensity emissions (i.e., mouth clicks) when a target was placed 45° off to the side compared with when it was placed at 0° (straight ahead). We provide a possible explanation of the behavioral result in terms of binaural-intensity signals, which appear to change more rapidly around 45°. The finding that echolocators have better echo-localization off axis is surprising, because for human source localization (i.e., regular spatial hearing), it is well known that performance is best when targets are straight ahead (0°) and decreases as targets move farther to the side. This may suggest that human echolocation and source hearing rely on different acoustic cues and that human spatial hearing has more facets than previously thought.


Thaler, L., Norman, L., De Vos, H., Kish, D., Antoniou, M., Baker, C., & Hornikx, M. (2022). Human Echolocators Have Better Localization Off Axis. Psychological Science, 33(7), 1143-1153.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jun 14, 2022
Publication Date 2022-07
Deposit Date Jul 25, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 25, 2022
Journal Psychological Science
Print ISSN 0956-7976
Electronic ISSN 1467-9280
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 7
Pages 1143-1153


Published Journal Article (377 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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