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Re: phantom words demonstrations

Just a small gloss; I used to use this Phantom Word effect on my students (DSP/Music computation) with amazing results; students reports "Let them die", "Mine's a beer" and many disparate words.

Quoting Diana Deutsch <ddeutsch@xxxxxxxx>:

Dear Massimo,

As Bruce mentioned, I do have ?Phantom Word? demonstrations on CD ? one on my CD ?Musical Illusions and Paradoxes? and six more on my CD ?Phantom Words, and Other Curiosities? (see my ?Phantom Words? page under ?Illusions and Research? in http://deutsch.ucsd.edu - this contains a description of the phenomenon and also links to a number of sound examples). The listener sits in front of two loudspeakers, with one to the left and the other to the right. Each track contains two words, or a single word composed of two syllables, and these are repeated over and over. The same sequence is presented through both speakers, but the tracks are offset in time so that when the first sound (word or syllable) is coming from the speaker on the left the second sound is coming from the speaker on the right, and vice versa. People initially hear a jumble of meaningless sounds, but after a while distinct words and phrases suddenly appear. The effect is often so vivid that people may become convinced that different words and phrases have been inserted into the track, despite my insistence to the contrary. As I describe, ?phantom? words and phrases are often related to what is on the listener?s mind. I also describe and discuss this effect in my blog for Psychology Today at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/illusions-and-curiosities/200906/phantom-words In his book ?Rorschach Audio: Art and Illusion for Sound? Joe Banks describes this effect and relates it to the visual Rorchach test.

Historically, I discovered this effect when I was exploring the possibility of obtaining something like the octave illusion with verbal material using headphones. This didn?t work well, but I discovered by chance that when the words and phrases were presented via loudspeakers rather than headphones these striking illusions occurred.

 All best,


Professor Diana Deutsch
Department of Psychology
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr. #0109
La Jolla, CA 92093-0109, USA

858-453-1558 (tel)
858-453-4763 (fax)


On Jun 18, 2014, at 2:38 AM, "Goldstein, E Bruce - (bruceg)" <bruceg@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:


Diana Deutsch has a CD that includes a "Phantom Word" demonstration that sounds related to what you are describing.

Different words are perceived while listening to a repeating sound pattern.

I think what is heard is in the signal, but variations in perceptual grouping over time causes different words to "appear."

E. Bruce Goldstein
Departments of Psychology
University of Arizona
University of Pittsburgh
From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception [AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] on behalf of Massimo Grassi [massimo.grassi@xxxxxxxx]
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 7:46 AM
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Does anybody know a similar study?

Dear list members,

yesterday I colleague played me a sample (a sentence) of highly degraded
speech. It was a recording made in a highly noisy environment. It
included speech (a conversation) that was hardly intelligible except for
a few occasional words.

The colleague asked me to listen to the sample and pay attention whether
I was able to spot a few target words. These words were not intelligible
to me.

The colleague then selected a portion of the recording and played it in
loop. That portion included (according to him) one target word. After a
few loops I was able to "perceive" the word.

This is exactly the problem. I'm wandering whether it was just a
suggestion due to the repeated listening of an ambiguous auditory
signal. A kid of auditory Rorschach test: there seem to be nothing at
the beginning but if you keep listening you can hear whatever you like.

Is there anybody out there that is aware of studies that investigated
whether listening in loop to an ambiguous signal can lead to hear things
that are not in the signal?

I didn't find anything yet.

Thank you all in advance,