Monday, September 29, 2014

Psychic Radio?

I have been thinking about this for a few days (although I've been aware of it for years), and this is a theory which makes some amount of sense and tries to explain how & why it happens. 

Many people have had the experience of listening to the radio and before the next song begins, somehow "knowing" what that next song would be…and be right.

A curious feature of the human brain is that we actually process sound faster than our brains process sight, despite sound being over 880,000 times slower than light. The reason is simple, sound hits our ear drums and that information is directly relayed to the portion of the brain that processes sound which happens to be right next to our ear; thus allowing us to "hear." Light on the other hand, not only has to go through our eyes, but must travel to the very back of the brain before being processed by a larger number of regions. We also rely on memories to know what it is that we are seeing which adds to the complexity of sight over hearing.

It’s my theory that this increased processing time combines with the fact that by the time we become conscious of something, the thing we are then conscious of has already happened, leading to the sensation of "prediction."

Let me explain. Once sound leaves the speakers it takes a fraction of a second to reach our ears, and then another fraction of a second for our brains to process it and for us to become aware of what it is we’re hearing. By the time this happens, new sounds are already leaving the speakers. The same can be said for sight. In essence, our conscious world is continually in the past; a state of being aware of things that, by the time we’re conscious of them, have already happened and so are in the past. 

The fact that our subconscious minds work far faster than we are aware (in some cases our brain has made decisions several seconds before we consciously "make" them), may also play into the sensation of prediction thanks to a kind of déjà vu; our brain has heard the first part of a song before we are aware of it and so when we become aware of the song we feel as though we predicted it, when in reality our brains simply processed the sound before we were consciously aware of said sound.

While the times involved are very short, I think this may be why people think they somehow "knew" the next song to come on the radio before the song begins, particularly for songs we've heard many times. As with sight, our brains are excellent at memorizing sounds and we can often recall the name or tune of a song with only a few notes which lends itself to this quick recognition process. 

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