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Evidence for a basic level in a taxonomy of everyday action sounds.
We searched for evidence that the auditory organization of categories of sounds produced by actions includes a privileged or "basic" level of description. The sound events consisted of single objects (or substances) undergoing simple actions. Performance on sound events was measured in two ways: sounds were directly verified as belonging to a category, or sounds were used to create lexical priming. The category verification experiment measured the accuracy and reaction time to brief excerpts of these sounds. The lexical priming experiment measured reaction time benefits and costs caused by the presentation of these sounds prior to a lexical decision. The level of description of a sound varied in how specifically it described the physical properties of the action producing the sound. Both identification and priming effects were superior when a label described the specific interaction causing the sound (e.g. trickling) in comparison to the following: (1) more general descriptions (e.g. pour, liquid: trickling is a specific manner of pouring liquid), (2) more detailed descriptions using adverbs to provide detail regarding the manner of the action (e.g. trickling evenly). These results are consistent with neuroimaging studies showing that auditory representations of sounds produced by actions familiar to the listener activate motor representations of the gestures involved in sound production.