Silence is no longer considered a mere absence of sound, as research suggests humans can actually hear and perceive it. Auditory illusions and experiments show that silence has a significant impact on the brain, challenging conventional understanding.
Scientists Have Discovered That Humans Can Actually Hear Silence
The phrase "the silence was deafening" and the Simon and Garfunkel song, which later became a meme, may be familiar to you, but did you realize that you may be able to hear the silence?
It seems very confusing, doesn't it?
How could you sense silence if it is intended to be an absence of sound?
Anechoic chambers, which are places that are so quiet that you can actually hear the blood rushing through your veins, have time restrictions since too much time there can produce weird effects on you.
However, after examining how silence can affect people's perceptions of time via auditory illusions, experts now believe that we may genuinely be able to hear quiet.
These discoveries, according to the researchers, finally answer the philosophical question of whether or not humans can hear silence.
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Though that's a challenging idea to comprehend, let's try it nevertheless.
Lead author of the study and graduate psychology and philosophy student at Johns Hopkins University, Rui Zhe Goh, stated: "We typically think of our sense of hearing as being concerned with sounds. But silence, whatever it is, is not a sound - it's the absence of sound.”
"Surprisingly, what our work suggests is that nothing is also something you can hear."
The scientists employed modified versions of auditory illusions to produce new versions in which the original sound is swapped out for brief periods of silence before reporting their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
So, for instance, one made a sound appear much longer than it actually was.
In another, the same period of silence likewise seemed to last much longer.
You're not the only one if that doesn't make a lot of sense.
What it does reveal is that the illusions based on sound and silence had the same impact, suggesting that people might just perceive quiet in the same way they perceive sound.
Chaz Firestone, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at John Hopkins who also happens to have a great name, said: "Philosophers have long debated whether silence is something we can literally perceive, but there hasn't been a scientific study aimed directly at this question.”
"Our approach was to ask whether our brains treat silences the way they treat sounds.”
“If you can get the same illusions with silences as you get with sounds, then that may be evidence that we literally hear silence after all."
In the experiment, participants were asked to listen to the soundscapes of various locations before listening to silences caused by the absence of all sounds.
The illusions participants reported seeing during the silences weren't the only ones the researchers thought may be brought on by sound; they also occurred when the sound was replaced by silence, they claimed.
Co-author of the paper and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Psychological and Brain Sciences, Ian Phillips, stated: "There's at least one thing that we hear that isn't a sound, and that's the silence that happens when sounds go away.”
"The kinds of illusions and effects that look like they are unique to the auditory processing of a sound, we also get them with silences, suggesting we really do hear absences of sound too."
There is still more research to be done on the disappearances of both sound and vision.
The researchers assert that their current findings may offer a fresh approach to researching how people perceive absence, which is good, don't you think?