Sonic Devices

Sonic Devices Target Teenagers In Philadelphia
July 5, 2019

Bouba/kiki effect

Bouba/kiki effect

The bouba/kiki effect is a non-arbitrary mapping between speech sounds and the visual shape of objects. This effect was first observed by German-American psychologist Wolfgang Köhler in 1929.

The presence of these “synesthesia-like mappings” suggest that this effect might be the neurological basis for sound symbolism


Coloring every other perception, and every conscious thought

How Sound Shaped The Evolution Of Your Brain
September 10, 2015

“Vibration sensitivity is found in even the most primitive life forms,” Horowitz says — even bacteria. “It’s so critical to your environment, knowing that something else is moving near you, whether it’s a predator or it’s food. Everywhere you go, there is vibration and it tells you something.”

“You hear anywhere from 20 to 100 times faster than you see,” Horowitz says, “so that everything that you perceive with your ears is coloring every other perception you have, and every conscious thought you have.” Sound, he says, “gets in so fast that it modifies all the other input and sets the stage for it.”

It can do that because the brain’s auditory circuitry is less widely distributed than the visual system. The circuitry for vision “makes the map of the New York subway look simple,” says Horowitz, whereas sound signals don’t have as far to travel in the brain.

And sound gets routed quickly to parts of the brain that deal with very basic functions — “precortical areas,” Horowitz says — that are not part of the wiring for conscious thinking. These are places where emotions are generated.

“We’re emotional creatures,” Horowitz says, “and emotions are evolutionary ‘fast responses’ — things you don’t have to think about.”

That speediness pays dividends in the survival department: “You hear a loud sound?” he says. “Get ready to run from it.” Emotions are rapid delivery systems in the brain, and sound drives emotions.

The Woman Who Sees Like a Bat

The woman who sees like a bat
What it is like to be a bat? Meets the woman who knows better than anyone.
13 January 2015

What is it like to be a bat? To sleep upside down, eat insects and use sound to ‘see’?
Philosophers have debated the question for decades as a way to think about other minds, and bat ecologists have turned their tools towards it.
One woman knows better than all of them. Fiona Gameson had both eyes removed because of a rare childhood cancer. She uses echolocation to navigate and see with sound. “I call it my ‘bat sense’,” she says.

Fiona echolocates with a series of clicks — she pulls her tongue away from the roof of her mouth to make a sharp ‘tick-tick’ sound. Then she listens for the echoes that bounce off objects around her, revealing their physical properties.