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Auditory priming

Ok, before we go any further, I’d like you to listen to the following:

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Hear anything, or just random gurgling?

The audio in the clip above seems to crop up in a number of children’s toys.

It’s used in the Fisher Price Real Loving Mommy Cuddle and Coo doll for example and in the Baby Pals game on the Nintendo DS.

Now, what if I told you that apparently these toys are being used to promote Islamic fundamentalism and Satanism (yes, two religious beliefs for the price of one)  Confused?

Listen to the sample again,  only this time listen out for the phrases; Satan is King and Islam is the light.

Did you hear them this time?  Personally, I’m struggling to hear Satan is king, but I can sort of hear Islam is the light at a bit of a stretch, now that I’m listening for it.  It’s that last clause that’s important, now that I’m listening for it.

The human brain is a pattern matching machine, particularly when it comes to things like language.  You’ve probably seen TV reports for example where people with strong accents are interviewed and presented with subtitles in case what they say is difficult to understand.  With the subtitles you can understand them easily and might well wonder why they bothered with them, but next time it happens try covering them up.  Suddenly what you could understand before is a lot harder to make out.

The phrases above were both spotted in different toys by the same US woman, Rachel Jones.  Now, who knows what triggered her hearing the phrase the first time, but once primed for it she could easily pick it up again and tell others, priming them to hear it too.  Hearing phrases in random static isn’t a new phenomenon, it even has a psychological term to describe it, Auditory pareidolia.  The same phenomenon leads some people to hear the voices of spirits in random static, or satanic messages in rock music.

Unlike backmasking where phrases are intentionally added, these are all just misfires of the pattern recognition abilities of the brain trying to make sense of sounds where none exists.  Provide a context for that sense and the urge to interpret it becomes even stronger but the phrases still aren’t really there, you just think they are.

Alternatively a secret cabal of Satanists and Islamists have put aside their differences, infiltrated the highest levels of the toy and game industry and are breeding a league of subliminally controlled child drones to do their evil bidding.  I’ll let you decide which is more likely.

Incidentally, I’d be interested in hearing in the comments whether or not you heard the phrases in the gurgling before or after you read what you were supposed to hear (or even heard anything else!)

Audio: © Mattel


Posted in linguistics, news, psychology.

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2 Responses

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  1. Synthaetica says

    before: no

    after, even being generous: not really

    people hear what they want to hear, just as they recognize in general what they want to recognize. this says much more about Rachel Jones than it does about Fischer Price.

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  1. nursery rhymes cd g linked to this post on November 16, 2017

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