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Musical Illusions and Phantom WordsHow Music and Speech Unlock Mysteries of the Brain$
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Diana Deutsch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190206833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190206833.001.0001

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(p.187) Conclusion
Musical Illusions and Phantom Words

Diana Deutsch

Oxford University Press

The Conclusion draws together the findings concerning music and speech that are explored in the book, and the insights derived from these findings. Much of the book is concerned with illusions. Some of the illusions reflect huge differences between people in how they perceive simple musical patterns. These differences suggest variations in brain organization and environmental exposure. Another way in which these illusions shed light on hearing involves illusory conjunctions. These lead to the conclusion that, normally, the process of analyzing sound includes the operation of specialized modules that each analyze a particular attribute, and that we combine the outputs of these modules to obtain an integrated percept. This process usually leads us to perceive sounds correctly, but it breaks down under certain circumstances, producing illusions. Further threads that run through the book involve relationships between music and speech; the importance of unconscious inference, or “top-down processing” on our perception of sound; and extremes of musical ability, which are shown to be the products of both innate and environmental factors. It is also shown that earworms and musical hallucinations highlight the vital role played by the inner workings of our musical minds in determining what we hear. The extraordinary phenomena explored in this book lead us to conclude that the hearing mechanism did not arise as a coherent, integrated whole, but rather developed as a set of different, though interconnected, mechanisms. From another perspective, they elucidate factors involved in listening to music in everyday life.

Keywords:   music, speech, illusion, illusory conjunction, unconscious inference, brain modules, musical ability, environmental influence, earworms, hallucinations

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