Audio is powerful.
Written by: Ensign-D
Edited By: Swift
Image Designed By: Craft
Audio. An intangible beauty that captures the ear. Tidal waves of sound sweeping us into its clutches. Danger rising from high-pitched violin strings. Death swimming up from two piano keys. A glorious crescendo of orchestral applause.
We don’t even realize the spell we’re under.
Then, there are the everyday sounds. A hair-raising scratch of the chalkboard, ear-splitting feedback from a microphone, or a crying baby in a store. Mentioning these might bring back unhinged feelings of distress. That is the power of audio. Our minds react to this force of nature. In both entertainment and everyday – audio colours our perspective in an ethereal rainbow.
How does it affect our brains?
And what’s the science behind it?
Sound can make or break any presentation. The confidence of the speaker, the sound quality of the microphone, the effectiveness of a well-timed dramatic pause…can impact the audience’s perception. Unfortunately, sound does not receive the same amount of scrutiny and attention as visuals. Yet sound can change our thinking in a subtle, ear-thereal way, beyond the power of visuals.
Humans create first impressions within four seconds. It only takes one point six seconds for a person to listen and interpret audio. That single second of audio provides a lightning fast route into the audience psyche. Sound engages one’s neural networks, increases motor reactions, emotions and creativity. Most of all, it hacks into the “mind’s eye” of the listener. It’s said that “Radio is the most visual medium” because it allows the audience to picture their own interpretation of sound. This is why podcast fans tend to buy products advertised, because they say it’s more “trustworthy”.
In marketing; there are car commercials where a vehicle zips along an open road. This visual alone would be boring, but paired with a solid song that evokes allure or joy, suddenly that car seems more captivating. Why? Because the power of sound puts that impression into the audience’s mind. Good audio can fill in the emotions of visuals, creating a harmonious relationship between song and sight.
There are four ways that audio can influence our minds.
We can feel audio. The tremor of soundwaves can affect our bodies as we’re made of mostly water.
If you’ve ever seen Jurassic Park, remember the T-Rex stomping behind the main cast? That glass of water rippling from the sound of each dreaded step? That’s the physical power of audio. Speaking of danger, audio can trigger our fight or flight response as well. Our mind reacts to dangerous sounds by increasing our cortisol levels, heart rate, and breathing patterns. If a loud sound erupts, we’re programmed to think something bad might happen, even if this goes against our own logic. Dropping a plate might scare you and these physiological effects kick in – but you know you’re not in any immediate danger. It’s our body’s natural response to these scary sounds.
Music can affect a wide range of emotions and take us to new places or old familiar ones. An upbeat tune or a slow piano ballad. It can even relax us with calming sounds of birds and waterfalls. Perhaps we can feel nostalgic with an old song from “back in the day” or even triumphant with an uplifting soundtrack in an action packed movie. There are no limits to what emotions you can tap into with audio.
Have you ever thought you work better with loud music? Science says that loud music can block our brains. It pollutes our minds by processing the sound, even while in the background, and impedes our critical thinking skills.
Most distracting sound of all is the human voice. If someone is speaking next to us it can be very difficult to block out the sounds.
This is even true as loud sounds can make us stressed, less social, and want to physically move away from the source. Sound can change our behaviour based on whether we’re in a noisy or quiet setting. Makes us stressed out if someone is talking in a negative tone.
These are the hidden influences of audio. How it can affect your neural networks and provide emotions where visuals cannot. When you’re watching a movie or listening to a radio ad, notice the audio techniques used in the music or voice. Perhaps you might replace your blaring alarm clock with a more soothing substitute to start your day. Or, if you are more productive with silence, try to find a quiet place to work. If death metal helps you write that dissertation, awesome. If you find silence promotes calmness, excellent. Use what works for you. Overall, be aware of the power of audio in both entertainment and life.