Most investigators are aware or quickly learn of the term Pareidolia. Also referred to as matrixing we know in a nutshell that our brain tries to make sense of random patterns and that is why we see elephants in the shapes of clouds and faces in the steam patterns on our shower doors. If you want to know more detail, you can find it in a previous article Pareidoila is just our brains trying to be smart. Did you know there is an audio version of this phenomenon?
Have you heard of where Rock Bands supposedly had satanic messages hidden in their records and if you played a record backwards at a slow speed you could actually hear these satanic messages? What about people that swear they are hearing a conversation in another room of the house when no one is there? A common one is people saying they can hear a musical tune when there is no radio in sight. Audio pareidola is the culprit (and a bit of Musical Ear Syndrome too). Lets break it down.
Anyone that has dabbled with EVP’s knows the unsaid but said rule. When reviewing an EVP, do not tell people what you think you hear. The reason for this? Once they hear this word, their brain will automatically interpret the noise to be what you have told them it is. Even if you hearing something completely different, if you are told there is a boy saying hello, that is what you are going to hear. Why? Audio pareidolia. The word pareidoila is defined as a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) where our mind interprets a familiar pattern of something where it doesn’t really exist. If you understand the visual version, basically it is exactly the same, but with sound. The best way to explain this is I remember back to when I went to an all day seminar hosted by the Klinge Brothers. They did a whole section on EVP. They obviously get sent stuff all of the time. Quite often, Brad explained they would always have people saying they were getting the word ‘Chicken’ coming through on EVP. In probably every case, it would make no sense for the word chicken to be coming through and why would it be coming through all over the world? Brad had a simple explanation for this. You know the sound when you are holding your EVP recorder and your finger or thumb quickly flicks across the microphone? It causes a CHIII type sound. They were not hearing the word chicken. Their brains were hearing this noise and not able to make sense of it, so it told them they were hearing the word chicken because it is the most familiar word to that kind of sound. This is exactly how audible pareidoila works.
Another example of this is people hearing voices or music within a constant background noise. It can be as simple as a fan in your bedroom of traffic constantly driving past. People say they can hear a tune or people talking but they can’t quite make out the words. There is no conversation happening in the next empty room, your brain is trying to make sense of the noise.
Musical Ear Syndrome is another little trick of the brain we need to be aware of too. It is most common in people that have some sort of hearing loss or tinnitus (a pesky condition where you always have a constant ringing in your ear like you have been at a rock concert). They are also referred to as musical hallucinations because basically, people can hear musical tunes when there is no music playing. It is most common for this to happen at night in bed. Why is that? The environment is usually quiet. Due to lack of stimulation your brain starts to search for some entertainment. Cue the nagging ringing in your ear. Your brain can’t make sense of it so tricks you into thinking you are hearing some sort of musical tune. Is this why during investigations when everyone is quiet people think they are hearing a music box playing for example or a piano tune playing in another room?
Basically, we can’t trust our brains. This is a big thing that a skeptic will use when having a discussion with paranormal investigators. It is also why some investigators do not trust things like the spirt boxes or portals or why they don’t consider an EVP to be definitive proof of the afterlife. Are spirits really speaking to us through these devices or is our brain interpreting random noises to be words we recognise? This is up for you as an individual to decide.
I guess as investigators this is just another thing we need to be aware of and adapt accordingly. If you are aware it is happening, you can maybe really figure out what is going on. Is there really a voice coming through or is it something else. Put your investigator hat on and work it out. Does this mean that I think all EVP is our brain tricking us? Personally no I do not (cue the hate emails about me being uneducated). I do believe in EVP. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t work with it. I just try to be a little smarter about it. We talk about the different classes A, B & C which relates to the quality of the EVP you have caught. Unless it is completely obviously and everyone thinks it is saying the same thing and no enhancement whatsoever is needed, I will throw it out. For me, it has to be class A and it has to be a really good class A. Anything else in my opinion is most likely to be audible pareidoila. This is just my personal opinion and there will be people that think differently. This is good! This is what makes up our field and gives us something to talk about. We as investigators however, just have to be aware that audible pareidoila is really a thing the next time we review that next batch if audio recordings or pick up that spirit box. It is amazing how you adjust your investigating style or how you review things when you are aware of these little tricks our brain plays on us!
If you can’t trust your brain, who can you trust?
* This topic is covered in more depth in my book Stuff Paranormal Investigators Need To Know Volume 1: What the eyes see and the ears hear the mind believes if you would like to explore this and similar topics further! Link below
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