Five Ways That Music Fools Your Brain

Everybody is familiar with optical illusions, as we encounter them regularly in advertising, movies and student-flat Escher prints, but the area of auditory illusion is much less familiar territory. However, our ears are also susceptible to manipulative trickery…
(from Music Technology)

It’s An Auditory Mind Field

New Scientist recently ran a series of articles on music and the human brain, including these five examples of auditory illusions.

Music producers may feel somewhat underwhemed that the effect of a sound appearing to move around in a stereo field is classed as an auditory illusion (the barber’s shop illusion), as this is something that many of us would create on an almost daily basis. However, evoking the perception of a sound moving in a three-dimensional space when it is in fact only emanating from two speakers is indeed a form of illusion.

Of the featured illusions, perhaps the most interesting is the ‘phantom words’ example – you can listen to the wav here.

The idea is that phrase fragments overlapping in each ear, which have no meaning of their own, will be interpreted by the brain as meaningful phrases (often seeded by topics of latent interest to the listener). That is, even though the phrases don’t actually say anything, someone who is on a diet may begin to hear words and phrases related to food. However, this won’t work on headphones – you’ll need to sit yourself in the sweet spot of a properly calibrated hi-fi setup.

If you need some help in calibrating your studio monitors, then Hometracked has a useful set of tones that you can use to check your stereo field, frequency response and room resonances. Get the goodies here.


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