As you may know, I'm writing a book about the inaccuracy (in my view) of people's judgments about their stream of conscious experience (tentative title: Perplexities of Consciousness). Last winter and spring I posted drafts of six of the eight chapters (available from my academic homepage). In early summer, I got distracted with a trip to Australia and a few other things, but now I'm back in the saddle. So here's Chapter 4, "Human Echolocation", co-authored with psychologist Michael S. Gordon.
Most people, when asked explicitly, will deny that they can detect the properties of silent objects, such as shape, texture, and distance, using echoic information about how sound is reflected or otherwise modified by those objects. They'll deny, that is, that they can echolocate. It turns out, however, that people are surprisingly good at echolocation (if not as good as bats or dolphins). We are mistaken not just about our sensory capacities but also about our sensory experiences. There's "something it's like" to echolocate; echolocation has a kind of auditory phenomenology. You can hear, for example, the proximity of a wall as you approach it eyes closed; you can hear the wadded softness of a blanket as you speak into it; and, generally speaking, though they tend to deny it, people have a pervasive auditory echoic phenomenology of their environments and objects nearby.