Sound is often overlooked, often taken for granted & extremely important.
Sound & Emotions
Emotion is one of the most complicated things our brain has to carry out. When we talk about emotional reactions, most instantly think of a significant event like a wedding or crying at movie or reminiscing over pictures as a trigger of emotion. We rarely recognize our emotional reactions are tied to a sound. Yet – sound is one of the most important triggers of our emotions. The reason we do not connect sound to emotion is because our brain is busy shooting off transmitters under our cognitive radar in rapid fire speed. For example: You are lying in bed and hear the sound of rain falling on your roof. Excitingly - You jump out of your cozy bed and go to the window to watch it! Then you discover that's not actually the sounds of rain on a roof but is in fact the sounds of roof rats. Your emotions just went from exciting rain on the roof to ‘Oh No’ in less time than it takes to blink. Another example of the massive power sound has on our emotional reactions is: you jump when a door slams shut or better yet – you get an uncontrollable grin as your favorite song plays on the radio.
Sound & Communication
While language, words and phrases, is a vital part of the way we communicate; it is not the only important part. Sounds, tones, and dialect all play an extremely important role. Some suggest that part of our brain has developed specifically to fulfil an important social function. This part reacts by helping us read cues such as tone of voice. For example: children always know a parent or parent figure’s stern voice and vice versa, a parent or parent figure can tell the difference in a child’s voice from sad, scared, hurt, and happy.
Sound & Our Bodies
Evaluative conditioning is when an emotion is brought on by a sound because we have heard it repeatedly in a certain setting, linking the sound to the setting.
Visual imagery is when the structure of sound makes us imagine scenes, situations or sensations. For example: a choir’s rising tune connecting with patrons’ sensation of moving hands upwards.
Emotional contagion is when we perceive the emotion conveyed by a piece of music. For example: The music isn’t actually sad, but we recognize it as conveying sadness.
Episodic memory is also known as the "Darling, they're playing our tune" phenomenon. This is when a particular sound triggers a powerful memory.
Music expectancy is just as it sounds. It is when we are very familiar with a sound and expect it to sound a certain way. We will have an emotional reaction of possibly pleasure or disappointment when unfamiliar variation is played.
Brain stem reflex is when the acoustic characteristics of a sound signal a "potentially important and urgent event", causing us to react on an instinctive level.