After laughing about it, there’s a serious side to this sort of “reverse speech” or “subliminal messages”. No, not a serious satanic side, but the rather interesting way this effect exploits some glitches in our perception.
When you are presented with an incomprehensible speech, your brain tries very hard to find some meaning, giving way to a sort of auditory paredolia. So, when someone gives you that meaning, you are actually able to hear it.
This effect is funny when “subtitling” foreign languages:
You native English speakers must know this exact very same video has also been “funny subtitled” in many other languages, and that even English speaking videos are “funny subtitled” in other languages. “Eyes without a face” sounds like “ajudar o peixe” in Portuguese, or “helping the fish”. It actually sounds exactly like that when the Portuguese “subtitle” is given.
Science has been studying the special dedicated way we perceive speech in more detail, and one particularly fascinating bit of research is related to sine-wave speech. It’s an artificially constructed sound, “lacking the harmonic structure of speech and not having the pulsing structure associated with voicing”, but with the frequencies and amplitudes of the sinusoids set equal to those of the original speech.
“These artificial signals could be perceived in two ways. Listeners who were told nothing about the stimuli heard science-fiction-like sound, electronic music, computer beeps, and so on. Listeners who instead were instructed to transcribe a ‘strangely synthesized English sentence” were able to do so. They heard the sound as speech, even though the speech sounded unnatural”.
The most amazing thing is:
“Once that [speech listening] mode is engaged, it is difficult to reverse the process. Listeners who have heard the stimuli as speech tend to continue to do so”.
You can experience this effect for yourself trying these examples. First listen to the sine-wave speech. Then listen to the original. Then listen to the sine-wave speech again. It will be almost crystal clear in its meaning. If we gave you a “subtitle” along with the sine-wave speech you would also understand it perfectly.
The lesson is not that some real message was hidden that can be understood by those wise enough. The lesson is that we can extract some arbitrary meaning from almost anything that sounds like speech.
This is how “Yes we can” can be turned into “Thank you Satan”. Reversed, it becomes:
“nac ew seY”
”Thak yu Satn”
”Thank you Satan”
As a side note, “Yes we can” reversed sounds even more clearly as “É eu sei” in Portuguese, which means “Yes I know”. But this is pure coincidence with no real meaning other than the ones some people force fit in.
Of course, there are some instances where reverse speech is intentionally inserted into music, but the persuading effect this has is highly doubtful, curiously this is usually done exactly to cater to those who believe reverse speech works.
If you still take reverse speech seriously, you may also find relevant that some adult movies have very spiritual “subliminal” messages.
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