Can you hear it? Scientists prove that humans can hear SILENCE for the first time

SIMON and Garfunkel may have got it right: there is such a thing as the sound of silence.

Or, at least, we perceive silence just as we do sound, one study suggests.

For centuries, philosophers have suggested that humans do not “hear” silence.

Instead we said they didn’t hear any sound so we realized we had to be in a quiet place.

But researchers have new evidence that the brain actively processes silence itself, which they say could explain why we pay so much attention to “an awkward pause in conversation, a tense pause between thunderclaps, or the silence at the end of a musical performance.” ‘

A new study reveals that our brains process silence as it sounds, which is why we can hear an awkward pause in conversation, a tense pause between thunderclaps, or the silence at the end of a musical performance

The claim is based on seven experiments involving 1,000 people that showed mind tricks that work with sound also work with silence.

As some amateur magicians and illusionists know, if you have someone play a continuous electronic tone or two separate tones of the same total duration, their brain will trick them into thinking that one tone is longer.

And in the new study, people also thought that one continuous silence was longer than two separate ones, suggesting that the brain processes absolute silence the same way it processes sound.

Dr. Chaz Firestone, lead author of the study from Johns Hopkins University in the US, said: “One of the reasons the phrase the sound of silence is so compelling is that it’s paradoxical.

Silence is the absence of sound.

“But these results suggest that we hear silence as if we were making a sound, so there may be some truth to the phrase the sound of silence.”

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, played out the single and double silences for people amid background noise from a train, busy restaurant, bustling market, playground or white noise.

People rated the single silence as longer than two separate silences when asked to compare, just as they do with sounds.

The illusion also worked when people were asked to press a key for how long the silences lasted, as well as when they simply compared them.

The researchers determined that it was not surprising that the two silences were interrupted by sound that distorted people’s judgment by repeating the experiment with a bird chirping during the long silence.

They also repeatedly found two electronic tones that were believed to have a larger gap between them when played in silence and that came in between other sounds.

This was particularly true when that silence came in between other sounds — suggesting that people’s brains actively perceive silence.

Because everyday sounds in real life are a cacophony and there is rarely total silence, the researchers assessed how people reacted when an individual sound fell silent.

Playing a high organ note and a low rumbling engine at the same time silenced one of these sounds several times.

When the sound that had not died out before was removed, it was judged to have been quiet longer than when the expected sound had disappeared.

The series of audio illusions shows how determined we are to perceive silence – the researchers conclude.

Co-author Professor Ian Phillips, from Johns Hopkins University, said: ‘The kinds of illusions and effects that look like they are unique to the auditory processing of a sound we also get with silences, suggesting that we really hear absence of sound. . at.’