Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2012, page 3

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Psychology of Sound

Everyday we're surrounded by millions of sounds - ambient ones like the hum of the air conditioner, as well as more attention-grabbing sounds, such as human speech. On Sunday night, neuroscientist and musician Seth Horowitz joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss how sound affects us, and in turn, how we have learned to manipulate sound to alter the way we think and feel. People can have difficulty acclimatising to the sounds of a city or the country, depending on where they are from, he detailed. If a city person goes to the country, the quiet can be disturbing because the lack of sound can seem like a warning that something is wrong, while the reverse is true for the country person going to the city. He also revealed that each city has its own unique band of sound around it, based on various factors.

Horowitz speculated on sound weapons of the future. One device that is already in use is the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device). "It's an extraordinarily powerful amplifier pumping out a tone that's right in the middle of most normal human hearing range but it's so powerful

that if you're within 10 to 20 ft. of it for more than 10 to 20 seconds, you're in trouble - you will lose your hearing. It will drive people away from up to 50 - 100 ft. no problem," he said. Explaining why people find particular sounds disturbing such as fingernails on a blackboard, he noted that such sounds are "pseudo-periodic," with random variations that can be especially jarring.

Horowitz also addressed the intriguing subject of "ear-worms," jingles or songs that play or get stuck in our heads like loops. Most earworms are something that has been repeated over and over again, so your brain has actually formed a neural circuit around it, he said. Interestingly, there are a lot of sounds we simply aren't aware of because they occur underwater, he pointed out. The source of one mysterious underwater sound known as "the Bloop" has never been identified from naval recordings, he added.

CoastZone Newsletter, Weekend Edition

September 10, 2012


Softer restaurant music, lighting can help cut calories, study says

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just as music and lighting can influence what shoppers buy, toning down the tunes and dimming the lights in a fast food restaurant can help diners enjoy their meal more and eat less, according to a U.S. study.

After transforming part of a fast food restaurant in Illinois with milder music and lighting, researchers found that customers ate 18 percent fewer calories than other people in the unmodified part of the restaurant. "When we softened the lights and softened the music in the restaurant it didn't change what people ordered, but what it did do was lead them to eat less and made them more satisfied and happier," said Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing and consumer behaviour at Cornell University in New York.

In the study, published in the journal Psychological Re-ports, Wansink and his co-author Koert Van Ittersum, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the bright lights, stimulating colours, sound-reflecting surfaces and loud music in fast food restaurants are not designed to be relaxing. So they improved the mood in a section of a Hardee's restaurant for the study, adding plants, paintings, indirect lights, tablecloths, candles and instrumental music.

After seating customers in both the original and restyled sections of the restaurant, they timed how long their meal lasted and how many calories they consumed. Customers in the modified section ate longer than those in the main dining area, consumed fewer calories and rated the food as more enjoyable. "Spending that extra time eating a little more slowly at a more relaxed pace made a world of difference, not just to how much they ate but how much they liked it," said Wansink, a former executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Centre for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and the author of the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think. "These results suggest that a more relaxed environment increases satisfaction and decreases consumption," he added.

About one in three adults and one in six children and teens in the United States is obese, according to government figures. Wansink, who is sending the findings to restaurant chains, said some simple changes could help people eat better and enjoy food more. "If softer music and softer lighting seem to get people to eat less in a fast food situation, why not try the same thing at home?" said Wansink.

Check out the article source here



There is a new book out on the history of noise: The title is “Discord: the story of noise” by Mike Goldsmith, Oxford university Press (CDN$29.95). In it, you will learn that the Greek colony of Sybaris, founded in 720 BC, banished potters, tinsmiths and other noisy tradespeople to outside the city walls. In London, the first official noise complaint was in 1378, against an armour-maker.
- News item from Tim Parsons, Brentwood Bay



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