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A line provides Wavelength in nanometers for “400,” “500,” “600,” and “700” nanometers. Within this line are all of the colors of the visible spectrum. Below this line, labeled from left to right are “Cosmic radiation,” “Gamma rays,” “X-rays,” “Ultraviolet,” then a small callout area for the line above containing the colors in the visual spectrum, followed by “Infrared,” “Terahertz radiation,” “Radar,” “Television and radio broadcasting,” and “AC circuits.”
Different wavelengths of light are associated with our perception of different colors. (credit: modification of work by Johannes Ahlmann)

Sound waves

Like light waves, the physical properties of sound waves are associated with various aspects of our perception of sound. The frequency of a sound wave is associated with our perception of that sound’s pitch    . High-frequency sound waves are perceived as high-pitched sounds, while low-frequency sound waves are perceived as low-pitched sounds. The audible range of sound frequencies is between 20 and 20000 Hz, with greatest sensitivity to those frequencies that fall in the middle of this range.

As was the case with the visible spectrum, other species show differences in their audible ranges. For instance, chickens have a very limited audible range, from 125 to 2000 Hz. Mice have an audible range from 1000 to 91000 Hz, and the beluga whale’s audible range is from 1000 to 123000 Hz. Our pet dogs and cats have audible ranges of about 70–45000 Hz and 45–64000 Hz, respectively (Strain, 2003).

The loudness of a given sound is closely associated with the amplitude of the sound wave. Higher amplitudes are associated with louder sounds. Loudness is measured in terms of decibels (dB) , a logarithmic unit of sound intensity. A typical conversation would correlate with 60 dB; a rock concert might check in at 120 dB ( [link] ). A whisper 5 feet away or rustling leaves are at the low end of our hearing range; sounds like a window air conditioner, a normal conversation, and even heavy traffic or a vacuum cleaner are within a tolerable range. However, there is the potential for hearing damage from about 80 dB to 130 dB: These are sounds of a food processor, power lawnmower, heavy truck (25 feet away), subway train (20 feet away), live rock music, and a jackhammer. The threshold for pain is about 130 dB, a jet plane taking off or a revolver firing at close range (Dunkle, 1982).

This illustration has a vertical bar in the middle labeled Decibels (dB) numbered 0 to 140 in intervals of 20 from the bottom to the top. To the left of the bar, the “sound intensity” of different sounds is labeled: “Hearing threshold” is 0; “Whisper” is 30, “soft music” is 40, “Risk of hearing loss” is 110, “pain threshold” is 130, and “harmful” is 140. To the right of the bar are photographs depicting “common sound”: At 20 decibels is a picture of rustling leaves; At 60 is two people talking, at 80 is a car, at 90 is a food processor, at 120 is a music concert, and at 130 are jets.
This figure illustrates the loudness of common sounds. (credit "planes": modification of work by Max Pfandl; credit "crowd": modification of work by Christian Holmér; credit "blender": modification of work by Jo Brodie; credit "car": modification of work by NRMA New Cars/Flickr; credit "talking": modification of work by Joi Ito; credit "leaves": modification of work by Aurelijus Valeiša)

Although wave amplitude is generally associated with loudness, there is some interaction between frequency and amplitude in our perception of loudness within the audible range. For example, a 10 Hz sound wave is inaudible no matter the amplitude of the wave. A 1000 Hz sound wave, on the other hand, would vary dramatically in terms of perceived loudness as the amplitude of the wave increased.

Of course, different musical instruments can play the same musical note at the same level of loudness, yet they still sound quite different. This is known as the timbre of a sound. Timbre refers to a sound’s purity, and it is affected by the complex interplay of frequency, amplitude, and timing of sound waves.


Both light and sound can be described in terms of wave forms with physical characteristics like amplitude, wavelength, and timbre. Wavelength and frequency are inversely related so that longer waves have lower frequencies, and shorter waves have higher frequencies. In the visual system, a light wave’s wavelength is generally associated with color, and its amplitude is associated with brightness. In the auditory system, a sound’s frequency is associated with pitch, and its amplitude is associated with loudness.

Personal application question

If you grew up with a family pet, then you have surely noticed that they often seem to hear things that you don’t hear. Now that you’ve read this section, you probably have some insight as to why this may be. How would you explain this to a friend who never had the opportunity to take a class like this?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

hello anyone interested in making a group to put together there own concepts, or perceptions of behavior in different political groups?
Josh Reply
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What is environmental psychology
rohini Reply
Environmental psychology focuses on the interplay between an individual and it's surroundings.
what is criminal psychology
Wasana Reply
Criminal psychology, also referred to as criminological psychology, is the study of the wills, thoughts, intentions, and reactions of criminals and all that partakes in the criminal behavior. It is related to the field of criminal anthropology
My Master degree is in Forensic Psychology. It is a science that is half psychology and half criminal justice
what is environmental psychology?
Doper Reply
if Someone can recommend any Practicing Psychologist Regards
Sajjad Reply
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Mrs. Reply
having a narcissistic-person as a partner in life can destroy your relationship especially if they're abusing you mentally.
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Mahmoud Reply
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In what ways do the norms of your different cultures lead you to behave differently in your interactions with each other?
Aliza Reply
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Kody Reply
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William Reply
Are you smarter than your teachers? I was. So, I found better ones. Like you are, William.
You don't have to be smarter than your teachers, at the end they teach what they been told, education system must change and give you the chance to learn things of your interest.
William James, principles of psychology, 1890
Cristina Reply
is there any phyical harm or internal harm to the brains
Megharaj Reply
it depends since an accient or trauma can cause amnesia, etc...
I should choose psychology major because....?
Alexsus Reply
psychology is the study of human behavior and I do think we should talk more on what interests each of us
psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processing and how they are affected by an organism's physical state,mental state and environment
or psychology is a science because it follows the scientific process in studying behaviiur and mental processing .behaviour include overt and covert ones ,mental processing include thought,emotion,perception ,reasoning processes ,memories and biological activities .
the air of psychology is (1) describe (2)explain (3)predict and (4) help improve lives
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also know very well that .psychology has so many sub field .which deal with different cases . thank u
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Edi Reply
how controller behavioural central psychological?
Abdulaziz Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 03, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11629/1.5
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