Friday, 7 December 2012

Believe first!

Audio spectrogramPlease listen to this sound link. To me, this is a voice saying a quite distinct word. What do you think? I'll return to it later.

Passing a puddle recently, I noticed its surface rippled. Assuming that I was responsible, I tried deliberately crashing around but it remained stubbornly still. Then I realised what had actually caused the ripple. It was not vibration but a droplet of water from an overhanging rain-soaked object above. Another much more likely cause I didn't even consider at the time was the wind!

But why had I even considered that vibration was responsible, when other possibilities were so much more likely? Then the famous scene from the movie Jurassic Park came to mind! A puddle ripples in the film to indicate the approach of a huge unseen dinosaur. It appeared to me that this movie may have put the idea of ground vibration producing ripples into my mind. After the experience, I deliberately watched puddles at roadsides as heavy traffic passed. Nothing! No ripples. Of course, tyres and vehicle suspension reduce vibration from traffic but even so, it turns out to be quite hard to reproduce the Jurassic Park puddle effect.

This brought me back to a recurring puzzle - why did I start to notice misperception only once I had found out how it worked. It was as if my conscious mind 'allowed' the unconscious part of my brain to show me misperceptions once I realised they were 'normal'. And maybe if I'd never seen Jurassic Park, I wouldn't have even considered one of the least likely causes of puddle ripple first. Of course, vibration can, and does, cause ripples in puddles sometimes but it takes a pretty big thump on the ground to do it.

My understanding of how misperception works could be viewed as a belief. Though it is based on scientific research, it's a belief all the same. But what if I believed, despite the lack of compelling evidence, that there were alien spacecraft visiting Earth regularly? I might well misperceive all sorts of unrecognized objects in the sky as alien craft. I think belief may open a sort of 'gate' in perception. It doesn't affect the things we see well. But those things that are misperceived, through being poorly seen, may be transformed into what we believe we will see, like alien craft.

Back to the EVP clip above. I think it sounds like a breathy voice saying 'tapped' or something similar. You might hear a different word, or just noise. If you hear paper being rustled, good for you, because that is exactly what it is! So, how come I still hear it as a voice, even though I KNOW it is paper? I think it is because I understand that certain sounds, when they contain simultaneous frequency peaks in simple harmonic ratios, are heard as speech no matter what their source (formant noise). So I have no trouble hearing voices where there are none because I know it's just the way the brain works. Someone not convinced by this argument may just hear rustling paper! And someone who didn't know it was paper might think it was a real voice. We perceive according to what we believe!

You can see a spectrogram of the sound in the diagram. You can see prominent simultaneous frequency peaks even in this small picture (the lines of peaks heading like ridges towards the bottom left). Some non-speech sources of sounds produce frequency peaks in simple harmonic ratios naturally. Such sounds can be heard as voices, in certain circumstances. Some EVP recordings are probably caused by this phenomenon.

When you come across a witness who is absolutely convinced that they saw an alien space craft, it is perfectly possible that they did! One possibility is that such a craft was actually physically present. But another one is that they had a belief that might see one and misperceived a more mundane aerial object. It think that belief, whether well-founded or otherwise, can literally affect how (and what) we perceive.

No comments:

Post a Comment