Listening and the Semiosphere: How Our Individual Brains Build Shared Worlds

Listening and the Semiosphere: How Our Individual Brains Build Shared Worlds

Seth Horowitz  (The Listening Program)
Thursday, January 14, 2016 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

We build the world from our senses. We see color and form, hear sound and vibration, feel temperature and texture, each sense taking a specific form of energy to create pieces of an ever streaming perceptual puzzle.   Our perceptions create our reality, our own personal psychophysical map of the world. But the map is not the territory.

We use complex neural behaviors like attention to filter and focus this map, turning seeing into looking and hearing into listening. We constantly try to validate our version of reality by comparing it to our memories and others’ perceptions, seeking a consensus. But sensory errors, interpersonal differences in perception, the endemic fuzziness of biological senses, psychological processes and interpersonal communication create gaps in reality, letting us see faces in rocks, hear a phantom cell phone ringing in the noise of a shower, “remember” an childhood event that probably never happened. And while we may think of our innate perceptual limitations as problems, these gaps between what we perceive and what exists in the world outside our head give rise to everything from illusion to art, from sound art to music, transforming the physics of the external world into the meaningful stories that drive the human mind.

Seth Horowitz is a neuroscientist whose work in comparative and human hearing, balance and sleep research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and NASA.

souncloudClick here to listen to a recording of Seth Horowitz’s talk for the 2015-16 IHC series: The Humanities and the Brain.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Humanities and the Brain.