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The Universal Sense

How Hearing Shapes the Mind

Seth S. Horowitz

Bloomsbury USA

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ISBN10: 1608198839
ISBN13: 9781608198832


320 Pages



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Every day, we are beset by millions of sounds-ambient ones like the rumble of the train and the hum of air conditioner, as well as more pronounced sounds, such as human speech, music, and sirens. How do we know which sounds should startle us, which should engage us, and which should turn us off?

Why do we often fall asleep on train rides or in the car? Is there really a musical note that can make you sick to your stomach? Why do city folks have trouble sleeping in the country, and vice versa?In this fascinating exploration, research psychologist and sound engineer Seth Horowitz shows how our sense of hearing manipulates the way we think, consume, sleep, and feel.

Starting with the basics of the biology, Horowitz explains why we hear what we hear, and in turn, how we've learned to manipulate sound: into music, commercial jingles, car horns, and modern inventions like cochlear implants, ultrasound scans, and the mosquito ringtone. Combining the best parts of This is Your Brain on Music and The Emotional Brain, this book gives new insight into what really makes us tick.


Praise for The Universal Sense

"The Universal Sense is a clear, humorous, personal account, punctuated by numerous anecdotes from Horowitz's own experience as a scientist, electronic-music producer and sound designer . . . Fascinating."—Nature

"Horowitz's book, filled with thought-provoking passages and interesting tidbits, will help everyone better see what they hear."—New Scientist

"[A] smart look at how the brain processes sounds."—People

"I want to stand on a hill and shout 'Read this book' so it bounces off a dense, flat, acoustically reflective surface and echoes through the land. Sound is a surreal, secret, madly fascinating universe going on around us all the time. Herrings in the sea are speaking to one another by farting. Bats are screeching at subway-loud levels right over our heads. Military operatives are blasting Guns n' Roses at enemy generals. Horowitz's expertise, enthusiasm. and wit make him the perfect ambassador. A must-read for people with ears."—Mary Roach, author of Packing for Mars

"Now hear this! The Universal Sense is a wonderful book. Beautiful prose. Clear exposition. Fascinating topic. Your ideas about sound and silence will forever be changed."—Joseph Ledoux, author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self

"Reading The Universal Sense, I found myself pricking my ears, suddenly aware as never before of the acoustic waves washing over me every moment of the day. Seth Horowitz brings his deep knowledge and graceful style to a dimension of life we often take for granted, covering an impressive range of sound-related subjects, from farting herrings to video game technology."—Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex and Evolution: Making Sense of Life

"For anyone who has pondered the impact of heavy metal on the mind, sonic cannons on the enemy, or 'brown noise' on the bowels, here is a feast: the first authoritative, scientific look at humans' relationship to sound. Seth Horowitz is as engaging as he is knowledgeable, and he brings the fruits of his own research and results to general audiences for the first time. So listen up."—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed

"The Universal Sense is a fascinating analysis of the history of sound and its connection to our world, our life, and our psychological state...It is an important book for all current and aspiring speech and auditory scientists seeking a detailed and compelling presentation about the powerful impact that sound makes on all livings beings." – I.G. Ashbaugh, Truman State University, CHOICE

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Seth S. Horowitz

Seth Horowitz, Ph.D is an assistant research professor in the departments of neuroscience and psychology at Brown University. He is the co-founder of NeuroPop, the first sound design and consulting firm to use neurosensory and psychophysical algorithms in music, sound design, and sonic branding. He is married to sound artist China Blue and lives in Warick, RI.