The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind

Overview

Every day, we are beset by millions of sounds-ambient ones like the rumble of the train and the hum of air conditioner, as well as more pronounced sounds, such as human speech, music, and sirens. But how do we process what we hear every day? This book answers such revealing questions as:

• Why do we often fall asleep on train rides or in the car, and what does it have to do with hearing?

• What is it about the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard that makes us cringe?

• Why do city folks have trouble sleeping in ...

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The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind

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Overview

Every day, we are beset by millions of sounds-ambient ones like the rumble of the train and the hum of air conditioner, as well as more pronounced sounds, such as human speech, music, and sirens. But how do we process what we hear every day? This book answers such revealing questions as:

• Why do we often fall asleep on train rides or in the car, and what does it have to do with hearing?

• What is it about the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard that makes us cringe?

• Why do city folks have trouble sleeping in the country, and vice versa?

• Why can’t you get that jingle out of your head?

Starting with the basics of the biology, neuroscientist and musician Seth Horowitz explains how sound affects us, and in turn, how we've learned to manipulate sound: into music, commercial jingles, car horns, and modern inventions like cochlear implants, ultrasound scans, and the mosquito ringtone. Combining the best parts of This is Your Brain on Music and How We Decide, this book gives new insight into what the sounds of our world have to do with the way we think, feel, and interact.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
How our sense of hearing affects how we think, feel and act. "What we think of as sound," writes Horowitz (Neuroscience and Psychology/Brown Univ.), "is split between two factors, physics and psychology." This dichotomy forms the framework of the author's debut book, with chapters examining both how we hear sounds and the effects those sounds have on our brains. Horowitz first spends several chapters on how hearing works, using bullfrogs as the model animal to demonstrate how low-frequency sound works, then flipping to bats to discuss high-frequency sounds. After establishing the physical mechanics of hearing, Horowitz moves on to what he calls "psychophysics": the relationship between what we hear and how we react. For example, a recording of angry bees is "almost universally frightening"; even elephants will move away from the sound and call out a warning to others. While there are some interesting factoids like this scattered throughout the book--e.g., readers will be surprised to hear that herring emit bubbles from their anuses to make ultrasonic noises--these moments are few and far between, with most examples coming off as bland illustrations for whatever is being analyzed in a particular chapter. Throughout, the prose is stuffy and overly explanatory and academic, and Horowitz punctuates the text with heavy-handed quirky asides. Each chapter begins like a new week's lecture, and, ultimately, the book never manages to coalesce around any overarching idea. A fairly dreary read about what should be a fascinating subject.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608190904
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/18/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Seth S. Horowitz, Ph.D. is an assistant research professor in the departments of neuroscience and psychology at Brown University. He is the co-founder of NeuroPop, the first sound design and consulting firm to use neurosensory and psychophysical algorithms in music, sound design, and sonic branding. He is married to sound artist China Blue and lives in Warwick, RI.

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Table of Contents

Foreword and Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 In the Beginning Was the Boom 6

Chapter 2 Spaces and Places: A Walk in the Park 24

Chapter 3 Listeners of the Low End: Fish and Frogs 47

Chapter 4 The High-Frequency Club 73

Chapter 5 What Lies Below: Time, Attention, and Emotion 94

Chapter 6 Ten Dollars to the First Person who Can Define "Music" (and Get a Musician, a Psychologist, a Composer, a Neuroscientist, and Someone Listening to an iPod to Agree…) 132

Chapter 7 Sticky Ears: Soundtracks, Laugh Tracks, and Jingles All the Way 163

Chapter 8 Hacking Your Brain Through Your Ears 186

Chapter 9 Weapons and Weirdness 216

Chapter 10 Future Noizes 246

Chapter 11 You Are What You Hear 272

Selected Sources and Suggested Readings 285

Index 295

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