Silence is indeed difficult to describe, but psychologists from Johns Hopkins University (USA) have discovered that we can hear it. The scientists presented their findings in the journal PNAS. For this purpose, the researchers conducted several experiments in which they used so-called auditory illusions. Like optical illusions, acoustic illusions can also distort our perception: thanks to the work of the brain, a person hears sounds that do not exist. There are many types of auditory illusions. One example is when one long beep appears longer to the listener than two consecutive short sounds, even if they are of the same length.
In experiments involving 1,000 people, a team of psychologists replaced the beeps in this auditory illusion with short periods of silence. Between these periods, the participants listened to all kinds of noises imitating the sounds of busy streets, markets, restaurants, railway stations.
Surprisingly, the results were the same as with the acoustic illusion described above. The volunteers thought that the long period of silence lasted longer than two other, shorter periods without sounds. “There is at least one thing that we hear, that we hear, that is not sound – silence. That is, these kinds of illusions that were previously thought to be unique to the auditory processing of sounds are also inherent in the case of silence: we actually hear the absence of sound,” says Ian Phillips, professor of philosophy, psychology and brain sciences, co-author of the research.
According to the scientists, their results open a new way to study the so-called perception of absence. The team plans to continue investigating the extent to which people perceive silence, including whether they hear silence that is not preceded by sound.
Photo by Sound On: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-woman-in-yellow-shirt-3761026/