The effects of expectation on the perception of soundscapes

Neil S. Bruce, William J. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores how expectations of a place and its soundscape can affect our perception of that soundscape. Previous soundscape research has included expectation as one possible element of the context in which soundscape evaluation takes place. This work aimed to focus on expectation and unpack it to improve understanding of its different components and how it works. A combination of soundwalks, interviews, focus groups and an interactive soundscape simulation were used in the investigation. A linked series of locations in Manchester and London were studied. It was found that participants' perceptions of a soundscape, both real and simulated, were affected by expectation in several different ways. Participants expected certain types of sound to be present in a particular space. Participants distinguished between whether a sound was expected and whether it sounded pleasant. It was also possible to distinguish between the expectation of particular sound sources and the expectation of the soundscape as a whole. The latter was found to be driven significantly by prior experience of similar spaces and also by perceived loudness. Participants also had expectations about the type of activity they could undertake in a particular soundscape, the behaviour of other people as expressed in the soundscape, and the degree of control they might have over their own exposure to the sound. These findings suggest that expectations of a soundscape are based on prior experience in a way which is consistent with Truax's notion of soundscape competence. The results have been used to produce a new model for soundscape expectation which is expressed as a flowchart. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Acoustics
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Competence
  • Context
  • Expectation
  • Noise
  • Perception
  • Soundscape
  • Soundwalk


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