Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in ACM Transactions on Applied Perception 2:4 (October 2005), pp. 467–472. Copyright © 2005 ACM. This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution.


The design of auditory formats for data display is presently focused on applications for blind or visually impaired users, specialized displays for use when visual attention must be devoted to other tasks, and some innovative work in revealing properties of complex data that may not be effectively rendered by traditional visual means. With the availability of high-quality and flexible sound production hardware in standard desktop computers, the potential exists for using sound to represent characteristics of typical “small and simple” samples of data in routine data inspection and analysis. Our research has shown that basic properties of simple functions, distribution properties of data samples, and patterns of covariation between two variables can be effectively displayed by simple auditory graphs involving patterns of pitch variation over time. While such developments have implications for specialized applications and populations of users, these displays are easily comprehended by normal users with minimal practice. Providing further software enhancement to encourage exploration of data representation by sound may lead to a variety of useful creative developments in data display technology.