The Illusion of Speech

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Your brain is an extremely complex pattern-recognition machine. Neuroscientist Jamshed Bharucha demonstrates to our audience how three indistinct synthesized sounds can be superimposed to create the illusion of human speech. Our brain is able make inferences from the most prominent energy peaks in a simple phrase and recognize the words being spoken even if most of the information is stripped away.

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Date: Friday June 4, 2010
Time: 08:00 PM-09:30 PM
Venue: The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
Moderator: John Schaefer
Participants: Christopher Shera, Jacob Kirkegaard, Mark Whittle, Polygraph Lounge

We look around us—constantly. But how often do we listen around us? Sound is critically important to our bodies and brains, and to the wider natural world. In the womb, we hear before we see. Join John Schaefer, Jamshed Bharucha, Christopher Shera, the Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard and multi-instrumentalists Polygraph Lounge for a fascinating journey through the nature of sound. How we perceive it, how it acts upon us and how it profoundly affects our well-being—including a demonstration of sounds produced by sources as varied as...[Read more]

Paul Stetsenko
Paul Stetsenko

There is more. A few years back I observed an interesting effect. When I stayed late at work into very late hours, the building would come "alive" with various sounds - heating, air circulation, hum of the transformers and various electrical equipment - that is, all the sounds that are present during the day but which we don't even notice as our environment is usually quite noisy. And being alone in a "whispering" building, I'd catch faint "conversations" or even music playing, barely audible. When I tried to listen, it would be just white noise, but when my mind was on some mental task, these phantom conversations and music would appear again. This is how our brain organizes white noise into familiar structures, presenting us with "ghosts". It was an interesting experience.


Absolutely lovely! The brain is a highly well-tuned machine.