Information

Why does speaking with rhythm help a subject get into a trance?

Why does speaking with rhythm help a subject get into a trance?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Various hypnotism teachers tell you to speak with a relaxed voice with rhythm. You can see Derren Brown on this in The Experiment - The Assassin (from 4:48 to 5:40):

Soft, rhythmical language, repeated phrases…

Also here, in a paper from Robin Allott:

A number of elements in successful oratory can be identified. Oratory uses some of the techniques also found in poetry: sound patterns (assonance, alliteration, repetition); strongly marked rhythmic patterns.

Why does rhythm help getting the subject in a trance?


This is not exactly my area, but I suspect it simply may not be anyone's area.

It is not clear from the research literature that speaking rhythmically does help get into a trance, mostly because it is not currently clear that "trance" is distinct from other forms of dissociation (though dissociation is often confusingly described as "trance-like" or variations thereof). The closest recent paper I could find (Becker-Blease, 2004), simply reports on subjectively reported associations between certain kinds of music and the experience of a "trance" state, but this does not answer the questions of why or whether speaking rhythmically induces dissociative states.

A non-paywalled review of dissociation and dissociative states in a clinical context can be found in a Review of Psychiatry chapter by Putnam, 1991. Putnam employs the following definition of dissociation:

Dissociation is a process that produces a discernible alteration in a person's thoughts, feelings or actions so that for a period of time certain information is not associated or integrated with other information as it normally or logically would be.

Unfortunately, while subsequent literature in the same line of research has tentatively described a difference between clinical and nonclinical dissociative experiences (Waller, Putnam and Carlson, 1996), this was only descriptive, and did not attempt to investigate ways of inducing dissociative states. The focus appears to have remained on clinical dissociation.

In conclusion, the literature and evidence currently does not seem to distinguish between the two possibilities that nonclinical dissociation either can or cannot be induced by rhythmic speech, and there does not seem to be any meaningful consensus or even particularly influential views on the cognitive processes underlying nonclinical dissociation. It simply does not seem to be an active area of psychological research.

References

Becker-Blease, K. A. (2004). Dissociative states through new age and electronic trance music. Journal of trauma & dissociation, 5(2), 89-100.

Putnam, F. W. (1991). Dissociative phenomena. Review of psychiatry, 10, 145-160.

Waller, N., Putnam, F. W., & Carlson, E. B. (1996). Types of dissociation and dissociative types: A taxometric analysis of dissociative experiences. Psychological Methods, 1(3), 300.


Rhythm on the brain, and why we can't stop dancing

Some of us can’t help moving to a beat. Credit: Shutterstock

Music and dance are far from idle pastimes. They are universal forms of expression and deeply rewarding activities that fulfil diverse social functions. Both feature in all the world's cultures and throughout history.

A common feature of music and dance is rhythmic movement, which is often timed with a regular pulse-like beat. But the human capacity for rhythm presents something of a puzzle.

Even though rhythmic coordination seems fundamental to human nature, people vary widely in ability. Some have the machine-like precision of Michael Jackson, others are closer to the case of "beat-deaf" Mathieu.

What are the underlying causes of these individual differences? By looking at the way the brain responds to rhythm, we can begin to understand why many of us can't help but to move to a beat.

Rhythm is a powerful force. It can regulate mood, ranging from the arousing effect of pounding war drums to the pacifying effect of gently rocking a baby. It can even induce altered states of consciousness, as in spiritual rituals and shamanic traditions involving trance.

Rhythm and music can also be used for therapeutic purposes in the rehabilitation of conditions characterised by motor impairment, such as stroke and Parkinson's disease.

Even more fundamentally, rhythmic skills displayed in the context of music and dance may have been essential to our evolution as a species.

In The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin mused that:

it appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.

Rhythmically coordinated body movements may function similarly to fuel sexual attraction by providing an "honest" signal (one that can't be faked) of an individual's health and fitness.

Outside the competitive arena of finding a mate, coordinating with others through music and dance facilitates social cohesion by promoting interpersonal bonding, trust, and cooperation.

These prosocial effects of music and dance may have contributed to the flourishing of human culture by preventing the disintegration of early societies into antisocial mobs.

Today, they remain potent enough to be relied on, even in maximum security prisons.

But if music and dancing are so universal, why are some people simply unable to hold a rhythm?

The key to answering this question lies in how the human brain locks onto rhythms in the external environment, and how this process of "neural entrainment" supports the coordination of body movements.

Sometimes we just have to move. Credit: Scott Robinson/Flickr, CC BY

Neural entrainment occurs when regular sensory input, like music with a clear beat, triggers periodic bursts of synchronised brain activity. This periodic activity can continue independently of external rhythmic input due to interactions between already excited neurons. It is as if they expect the sensory input to continue.

Entrainment can thus enhance processing of incoming information by allocating neural resources to the right place at the right time. When performing or dancing to music, entrainment allows the timing of upcoming beats to be predicted.

A recent study on individual differences in rhythmic skill identified relationships between the strength of neural entrainment and the capacity to synchronise movements with musical rhythms.

We measured entrainment to the underlying beat in two types of rhythm using electroencephalography (EEG), a technique where electrical signals reflecting neural activity are recorded via electrodes placed on the head.

One rhythm had a regular beat marked by periodically occurring sound onsets. The other was a relatively complex and jazzier "syncopated" rhythm in which sound onsets were not present on all beats: some were marked by silence.

Results indicated that the strength of neural entrainment was related to people's ability to move in synchrony with the beat. Individuals with strong neural responses were more accurate at tapping a finger in time with the beat of the two rhythms.

We also found individual differences in brain responses to the two rhythms. While some individuals showed a large difference between strength of entrainment for the regular rhythm versus the syncopated rhythm, others showed only a small difference.

In other words: some people required external physical stimulation to perceive the beat, whereas others were able to generate the beat internally.

Remarkably, people who were good at internally generating beats also performed well on a synchronisation task that required them to predict tempo changes in musical sequences.

So the capacity for internal beat generation turns out to be a reliable marker of rhythmic skill. This adds new meaning to Miles Davis' reported maxim that "in music, silence is more important than sound".

But we still don't know why individual differences in the strength of neural entrainment occur in the first place. They may reflect the efficiency of neural responses at early levels of auditory processing, such as brainstem responses. Or the degree of connectivity between higher-level auditory and motor cortical regions.

Another open question is whether rhythmic skills can be boosted by recent advances in neuroscience. Brain stimulation techniques that induce neural synchrony at specific frequencies provide a promising method for enhancing entrainment and thereby improving an individual's capacity for rhythm.

This story is published courtesy of The Conversation (under Creative Commons-Attribution/No derivatives).


Get A Copy


Why Prosody Matters: The Importance of Reading Aloud with Expression

Reading aloud with expressionis a foundational reading skill students should be developing between grades 1 - 5. It is pretty easy to recognize when someone skillfully reads aloud in an expressive manner. However, to effectively teach or assess this skill, a closer examination of its features, development, and relationship to other reading skills is needed.

What is Prosody?

Prosody, the defining feature of expressive reading, comprises all of the variables of timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation that speakers use to help convey aspects of meaning and to make their speech lively. One of the challenges of oral reading is adding back the prosodic cues that are largely absent from written language.

Why is Prosody Important?

Researchers have found strong links between oral reading prosody and general reading achievement. For example, after comparing students’ reading prosody in first and second grades with their reading comprehension at the end of third grade, Miller and Schwanenflugel (2008) concluded that, “early acquisition of an adult-like intonation contour predicted better comprehension.” Another study, which included more than 1,750 fourth graders participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), found a strong correlation between prosody and overall reading achievement (Daane, Campbell, Grigg, Goodman, & Oranje, 2005).

How Does Prosody Impact Reading Comprehension?

In the context of oral reading, prosody can reflect linguistic features, such as sentence structure, as well as text features, such as punctuation. Skilled readers pick up on these features, and respond to them when reading aloud, as when they pause briefly at relevant commas, pause slightly longer at sentence boundaries, raise their pitch at the end of yes-no questions, and lower their pitch at the end of declarative sentences.

While punctuation provides some cues to prosody, young readers can be misled by it. For instance, they may pause at every comma, even when the grammar of the sentence does not call for pausing (e.g., “He made his usual egg, cheese, and tomato sandwich.”). As young readers move toward adult proficiency, their pauses increasingly respect the grammar of the text rather than doggedly following the punctuation (Miller & Schwanenflugel, 2006).

Prosody can also reflect aspects of meaning. For instance, slight fluctuations in pitch, timing, and emphasis can change a simple question (e.g., “What did you do?”) into an expression of censure. Learning to read dialog in a manner that reflects the intentions and emotional states of the characters is a great way for adolescent readers to delve deeply into literature. However, younger students may not understand this use of prosody well enough to apply it to oral reading (Cutler & Swinney, 1987). Notably, in the NAEP study, only 10% of fourth graders were judged as reading aloud with this level of expressiveness.

Finally, when thinking about prosody, it is critical to remember the other aspects of reading fluency: word reading accuracy and reading rate. Inefficient word reading is the primary barrier to good prosody for most young readers (Schwanenflugel, Hamilton, Wisenbaker, Kuhn, & Stahl, 2004). Children who are struggling to decode individual words tend to pause too frequently and for too long, so that their timing and phrasing are seriously disrupted. Furthermore, they must put so much effort into decoding that they do not have the mental resources left for constructing meaning and conveying it expressively.

Providing Insight Into a Learner's Reading Ability

Listening to the prosody of a child reading aloud provides parents and educators with a window into many aspects of reading skill. By reading aloud with appropriate timing, phrasing, and end of sentence intonation, younger readers can demonstrate their ability to:

read at a reasonable rate

read most words automatically, so that mental resources are available for comprehension

use grammar and punctuation to help construct meaning

By reading aloud with increasingly adult-like intonation and expressiveness, adolescent readers can demonstrate their ability to:

use discourse-level features, such as pronouns and signal words, to recognize relationships across and among the sentences in a text

understand characters and their intentions when reading fiction

understand an author’s purpose or attitude.

Ultimately, all of these abilities must be brought to bear to achieve the ultimate goal of reading with comprehension.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2012). English Language Arts Standards – Reading: Foundational Skills (Grade 1 – Grade 5). National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO): Washington, DC.

Cutler, A. & Swinney, D. A. (1987). Prosody and the development of comprehension. Journal of Child Language, 14,145-167.

Daane, M.C., Campbell, J.R., Grigg, W.S., Goodman, M.J., and Oranje, A. (2005). Fourth-Grade Students Reading Aloud: NAEP 2002 Special Study of Oral Reading(NCES 2006-469). U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Schwanenflugel, P. J., Hamilton, A. M., Kuhn, M. R., Wisenbaker, J. M., & Stahl, S. A. (2004). Becoming a fluent reader: Reading skill and prosodic features in the oral reading of young readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 119–129.

2 comments on “Why Prosody Matters: The Importance of Reading Aloud with Expression”

This was very helpful. IM a grandma teaching homeschool language arts to an eleven-year -old. She doesn’t pause atsentence end when reading aloud. This has given me some ideas to help her!

Thanks for your comment, Connie! Best wishes as you try out some new techniques with your granddaughter!


Denotative Meaning

Denotative meaning The common agreed-upon meaning of a word that is often found in dictionaries. is the specific meaning associated with a word. We sometimes refer to denotative meanings as dictionary definitions. The definitions provided above for the word “blue” are examples of definitions that might be found in a dictionary. The first dictionary was written by Robert Cawdry in 1604 and was called Table Alphabeticall. This dictionary of the English language consisted of three thousand commonly spoken English words. Today, the Oxford English Dictionary contains more than 200,000 words. Oxford University Press. (2011). How many words are there in the English language? Retrieved from http://oxforddictionaries.com/page/howmanywords


How To Bypass The Critical Factor & Use Unconscious Symbolism

The mystique of hypnosis first began in its overt form meaning that subjects were fully aware that direct commands were being used to induce trance in an effort to hypnotize them.

The problem with this was that many people did not enter a state of hypnosis. Thus began the urban myth that it’s not possible for some people to be hypnotized.

Alternately, it would take hours of hypnotic relaxation suggestions to just get someone into a trance before any therapeutic work could be done. This was a very laborious task, and it was almost as if they ended up being bored into trance!

Even the late and great Milton Erickson would take hours and several sessions “training” his subjects to be good hypnotic subjects. To spend six to eight hours in hypnotic training was not unusual. And that was before any therapy began.

For this reason, covert hypnosis has become an extremely powerful tool for modern day hypnotists as you can induce trance in just a matter of minutes!

To learn the essential tips and tricks so you too can covertly help even the most resistant of subjects during hypnotherapy, keep reading…

Bypassing the Critical Factor

Bypassing the critical factor means moving your subject from their conscious mind into their unconscious mind. All hypnosis takes place at the unconscious level.

One way of looking at it is like this. There is a guardian at the gate between the conscious and unconscious mind – therefore, stealth is essential! If you can’t slip past the guardian unnoticed, you can’t enter the kingdom of the unconscious.

This is because the conscious mind is very limited in its horizons. Its job is to keep everything the same because it thinks that’s the only way it can keep you safe.

But according to neurological research, you can actually only process three or four pieces of information per second, which is not much at all!

So when your conscious mind is busy planning your life ideally it should turn the work over to the real go-getter – the unconscious.

But sometimes it thinks it’s the Big Cheese and stays hyper-vigilant to do anything but hand over control.

The unconscious mind, on the other hand, has been determined by neuroscience to be pretty much unlimited. It can take in billions of pieces of information per second. Which is quite impressive, when you think about it!

But what good is having this brilliant unlimited mind if you can’t get access to it? Enter the critical factor bypass!

Covert hypnosis is such a stealth agent that it easily sneaks past the “guardian at the gate” into the kingdom of “Hypnoland” to access all of your infinite potentials.

Check out the ten tips below to learn how…

1. The secret to successfully bypassing the critical factor every time is that you first capture all of your subject’s attention. Without full attention there is no getting past the guardian.

2. Be sure your H+ (your desire that your subject have a wonderful experience in hypnosis) is turned up full.

3. Go first. Make sure you’re in an open-eyed trance first, making it easier for your subject to follow you.

4. Once their full attention is on you, be sure you have a friendly but direct hypnotic gaze and engage them in chitchat. Maintain this eye contact.

5. Begin using covert hypnotic language to make them feel comfortable and to build rapport.

6. Begin adding in trance themes. For example, relaxation and comfort.

7. Use your hypnotic voice – a tone a little deeper and slower than your normal speaking voice.

8. Watch for trance signals such as pupil dilation, skin flushes, catalepsy, eyes wanting to close and breathing changes. When you see these happening, you’re past the critical factor!

9. DON’T start giving any hypnotic suggestions until you know you’re past the critical factor or the conscious mind will reject them! Remember – the conscious mind doesn’t like change it does everything in its power to keep the person status quo.

10. Once you’ve bypassed the critical factor, you’re home free and can start giving your hypnotic suggestions to an unconscious mind that will accept and act on them.

This entire process can happen in minutes. Your subject can be comfortable from the moment they enter your office and will slip into a trance without even being aware of when the hypnosis began.

Using Unconscious Symbolism

Guided visualizations have gained huge popularity in the self-improvement industry – but aren’t nearly as effective as their sales agents claim.

Some studies claim that only 20 to 25% of people tested had their brain neurology changed while listening to a guided visualization.

Why? In order for a symbol to have any effect on your unconscious mind, it has to be one that you’ve already got an emotional connection to.

If you listen to a lot of guided visualizations, they tell you to fill yourself with white or colored light. If you have no emotional connection to white or colored light, this will have no unconscious effect.

You can imagine the light and it might be interesting, but the unconscious is the realm of emotions and works off of associations.

If you listen to a guided visualization that tells you to take a path deep into a forest – and you’re afraid to enter forests because you think they’re full of dangerous animals – this can even bring up old emotional trauma.

Symbolism is the language of the unconscious mind and it’s a REALLY powerful tool for change!

So you DON’T want to be using symbolism that’s got negative connections in a subject’s mind.

How do you insure that you have the most powerful symbolic tools without triggering a negative reaction?

Covert hypnosis elicits and uses the symbols the person ALREADY has. Try doing the following to see how…

1. When having a conversation with a subject, ask them about a pleasant experience they’ve had in nature and have them describe it to you. Pay attention to at least three or four key elements that make the memory special for them.

For example: The calm lake, the smell of the sea, the feel of the sun on their face, the peace of the forest, the swaying of a tree in the wind.

2. Once you’ve elicited the symbols that make them feel good, you’re ready to use them as your induction.

Have them close their eyes and then revivify back to them everything they’ve told you – in their words. This is crucial – don’t substitute your own evaluation of the scene – feed it back to them exactly as they have.

For example, if your subject said they felt great when they were last in the mountains on a sunny day and saw this huge beautiful tree swaying in the wind, you could say:

“Close your eyes and take yourself to the place back to where that huge beautiful tree is swaying in the mountains.” Give them a little time to be in that experience before you go on. Let them remain with their eyes closed.

3. Then revivify other elements of what they said. This time you may say something like “It’s a beautiful sunny day, you’re just sitting there feeling great. Just sitting there feeling great.”

What will happen when you take them through several pleasant experiences is that the core elements will start to mix and a brand new scene will take its place – one that’s full with positive feelings.

4. From here you have many options. You can create a place of safety, or “sanctuary” that the person can return to again and again whenever they want this great feeling. This is perfect for a self-hypnotic stress release (which you can teach them).

You can also give suggestions to their unconscious mind that they will look around the scene and find something to help them solve the problem they came to you with. Or they will find an unexpected gift from their unconscious that will unfold something new in their life.

This process allows you as the hypnotherapist to use a subject’s symbolism powerfully so you can help them in many ways.

And one of the best things about covert conversational hypnosis is that you can receive feedback from your subject throughout the journey – without being afraid they’ll “pop” out of trance while talking.

As without feedback, how will you ever know what’s going on inside your subjects’s mind? Remember: hypnosis is a two-way street.


Church and Hypnotic Manipulation

I n the third volume of my ‘I Am Christ’ series, I dedicate two chapters to examining hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), as they apply to most, if not all, Christian Church services.

The following is a small excerpt from I Am Christ Vol. 3: The Ascension – Understanding, which includes a brief background on hypnosis as well as the second stage of hypnosis.

Hypnosis Misunderstood

Contrary to popular myth, hypnosis is not about turning people into chickens! It is true however, that deep trance hypnosis can dramatically alter one’s perception of reality, in much the same way that meditation, prayer, long term fasting, entrancing religious rituals, or walking for miles in the hot desert. Contrary to the title of this chapter, there is nothing magic about hypnosis. A popular misconception regarding hypnosis is that it involves a sleeping state, in which the subject is covertly forced to adopt thoughts and behaviors which they would otherwise, be adverse to. The trance-state can and usually is, induced via hypnosis while the subject is wide awake this state is known as the ‘waking trance’ and is the most common form of trance. Under this waking trance, it is unlikely even impossible, that hypnosis alone can cause the subject to think and behave in a manner that is contrary to their moral constitution and established principles. Having said that, when hypnosis is combined with N.L.P (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), it can, and quite often does, result in the changing of a person’s ideas, beliefs and behaviors. Subjects under hypnosis will usually remain acutely aware of their surroundings and may not even know that they are in the hypnotic state. The trance-state induced by hypnosis is a relaxing, slightly altered state of consciousness, which is very natural and commonly experienced by everyone almost every day. Whether we experience it during our favorite TV show or driving down a long stretch of highway, we all go into trance daily and we are seldom aware that we are in this state of slightly altered consciousness. Have you ever been in a daze while being asked questions by someone and you ended up asking them what you had just agreed to? Or have you ever walked into a room to get something and then forgotten what you had to get, once you were in the room? Because trance is a regularly experienced state of mind, it makes it hard to tell when we are going in and out of it. It is familiar to all of us yet, just as the deep sea dweller fails to notice the water around them for the fish and the coral, we take this state of mind for granted.

Hypnosis is essentially, a mental state**, usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction. The induction is commonly composed of a long series of preliminary instructions and suggestions.(1) Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject, or may be self-administered ("self-suggestion" or "auto-suggestion").
The words 'hypnosis' and 'hypnotism' both derive from the term "neuro-hypnotism" (nervous sleep) coined by the Scottish surgeon James Braid in 1841. Braid based his practice on the earlier work of Franz Anton Mesmer, whose name is the origin of the word ‘mesmerized’. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Franz Anton Mesmer developed what is known as "Mesmerism" or "animal magnetism". He was heavily influenced by the earlier work of Father Maximillian Hell, a Catholic Priest, who had been using magnets and prayer to hypnotize subjects and had some success in healing hysterical conditions, such as hysterical blindness and similar psychologically rooted problems.

Contemporary research suggests that hypnosis is a wakeful state of focused attention and heightened suggestibility, with diminished peripheral awareness. (2) This heightened state of suggestibility is the primary focus of both this chapter and the next. What and how intensely can one be manipulated to believe a given proposition, if one is under hypnosis? And more importantly, if one does not realize that they are being hypnotized over and over again doesn’t this constitute manipulative conduct on the part of the hypnotist(s)? These two questions underscore the following investigation into the magic of Christianity.


The 5 Stages of Hypnosis

A typical hypnotherapy session contains five stages:]

1. Introduction
2. Induction
3. Deepening
4. Suggestion and
5. Awakening.


It is the contention of this author that the same five stages can be found within most Christian church services. The hypnotic techniques employed during church sessions have served to further entrench Christian beliefs into the minds of Christian subjects and so demonstrates the mentally manipulative religious package offered by the Christian religion.


According to professional hypnotists, the subject’s mind must contain four primary criteria in order for the hypnosis to work. The acronym is known in the profession as, B.I.C.E:

1. Belief
2. Imagination
3. Conviction and
4. Expectation


These elements are generally found in abundance in the mind of the true believing, church going Christian. Generally, those who attend church believe that their pastor or preacher is speaking the word of god, which has very powerful psychological implications and satisfies the first criteria of the list above. Further, the church goer’s imagination is engaged at almost all times throughout the service, during the singing, the sermon, the prayer and it is probably the hardest working aspect of the four criteria set out above. Next, professional hypnotists say that the subject must have conviction and the stronger the better! There is almost nothing in this world that inspires conviction, like one’s religious beliefs. The attendee is convinced that the church service is permeated by the spirit of their god, which leads to the expectation, that they will “feel the spirit.” In truth, the elation one gets from “feeling the spirit” may be little more than the pleasure and catharsis of entering a trance.


(Stage one has been taken out of this post by the author)


Stage 2: The Induction: Removing the Filter


The purpose of the induction stage is to have the subject enter a trance state.
A trance state, as mentioned above, is more often than not a state of consciousness that does not involve deep sleep, or a complete alteration of the mind. It commonly involves a slight, almost imperceptible change in focus and a light feeling of relaxation. Listening to one’s favorite music can often induce trance, along with other activities such as driving a car, washing the dishes, watching TV and many other mundane daily activities that require little participation from the conscious mind. Once the conscious mind is dismissed from the activity, the subconscious or unconscious mind is opened. Much like a key opening a locked door, the induction stage is primarily concerned with accessing the subconscious mind via trance.


In their book Unlimited Selling Power, Donald Moine and Kenneth Lloyd, discuss the trance associated with everyday activities in the following words:


Self-hypnosis occurs frequently in everyday life and can be found in such diverse activities as day-dreaming, jogging, prayer, reading, listening to music, meditation, or even driving the freeways. Once in the self-induced hypnotic state, suggestibility is greatly heightened. Psychological barriers and defenses are lowered, and the person's unconscious becomes more receptive to new programming. (3)


The trance state is one in which the subject’s subconscious mind is brought to the surface. Subsequently, the subject in trance is more prone to receiving suggestions in a less critical fashion. This is due to the absence of the critically analytical conscious mind, which questions and assesses information upon rational grounds.


As stated by William Hewitt, in his book ‘Hypnosis for Beginners’:


The conscious mind does not take suggestions well. It is most useful for thinking, reasoning and putting into action those things it already knows the subconscious mind, however, is like an obedient slave. It doesn’t think or reason. (4)

The subconscious mind has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality, which is why our dreams seem real at the time. During the dream state, the subconscious or unconscious mind, is not critically evaluating the probability of flying over a house in pink underwear, while being chased by a vicious dog with wings. It is happening now! It is real! It is only when we wake up that we realize it was all just a silly dream. But what happens when we don’t wake up from our subconsciously inspired fictions? This is the dilemma faced by the conscious mind of the believer. One could view the subconscious mind as the gateway to our conscious mind, allowing it to be manipulated in to believing things which it would otherwise see as irrational. Here in lies the power of hypnotic induction, when it comes to changing, molding, or maintaining irrational and unsound beliefs.


The ‘Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science’ sums up the effect of hypnotically induced manipulation upon the subconscious mind in the following terms:

Accessing the conscious mind via the subconscious is a little like commissioning a mutiny aboard a ship. The conscious mind is usually the captain, steering the ship and making decisions on behalf of the crew or subconscious, however when the captain or conscious mind is bypassed, the crew is given the power to alter the course of the ship. It is however, the captain alone, who possesses the necessary skills of navigation and engineering and so when the crew is directly accessed and given authority over and above the captain, the ship can be steered in any given direction and this can often result in the ship being steered off course.

I have already spoken about factors that may help induce the trance state such as, the monotonous nature of everyday activities, post hypnotic programming, the environmental impact on our state of mind and melodic music. So now, I would like to focus more on the role of music in inducing trance, as it is a common element in almost all church services and has a tremendous power to illicit an emotional response from the listener.


Music and Trance Induction


Music is an extremely effective instrument for trance induction. Most people can relate to the feeling of listening to music that either inspires or relaxes their thoughts and emotions. Music is designed to engage us at both the conscious and unconscious levels. It can make a person angry, sad, happy, sleepy, or even inspire the listener with confidence before a big event. The famous rock and roll singer, Henry Rollins once said that, he listens to a rap group called ‘Public Enemy’, before he performs, because it “gets him in the right mood”. The military uses it to entrance their soldiers and get them ready for battle and so do nations with their national anthems, which inspire an almost religious feeling in some. Members of the Voodoo religion in Haiti use it to evoke trance states and the religions of antiquity would also use music to invoke the “spiritual experience”.


Left Brain Lyrics and Right Brain Rhythm


It has been said by Psychologists that the left hemisphere of the brain is the dominant hemisphere and is responsible for our conscious mind while our right hemisphere houses our creative, intuitive subconscious and is responsible for interpreting music. Referring once again to the ‘Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science’:


The dominant (most often left) cerebral hemisphere is associated with information representation and processing, which is sequential or in series, digital, and abstract. It is characterized by analytical and logical processing that deals with detail. It plays a major role in the processing of verbal information, and in particular digital or abstract linguistic representation. Of the two cerebral hemispheres the dominant one is considered to be involved with consciousness, especially self-consciousness.


The minor (most often right) cerebral hemisphere is associated with information representation and processing, which is simultaneous or in parallel, analog, and holistic. It is characterised by Gestalt, analogical, and integrative processing, which deals with more spatial and global information and with novel (creative) or unfamiliar information. It plays a major role in the processing of naturomorphic or imagistic representations and in particular the processing of nonverbal and emotional information, spatial and pictorial information (symbols), and music and other non-language sounds. (6)


Therefore music with lyrics could be argued to target the listener’s left and right brain simultaneously. It is possible, that the left brain is being distracted by words and messages, while the right brain is being entranced by the beat and melody of the music.


It is little wonder that songs and hymns have been playing an increasing role in Christian worship, especially ‘Protestant Born Again’, Evangelical and so called Charismatic or ‘New Seeker’ Churches, as these churches lack the awe inspiring architecture of their Catholic counterparts.


In an article posted by the Unity Christian Church, called ‘Suggestions for an Effective Order of Service’, they say:

If one is to read this with an adequate knowledge of hypnosis, it becomes apparent that what they are proposing, is a more effective method of completely entrancing and evoking an emotional acceptance of the church’s ministry or suggestions. This is not a technique which seeks to impart a simple and universal truth, it is a technique aimed at overcoming the left brained rational and critical faculties, in order to take over the ship, so to speak!


The Unity Christian Church goes on to suggest the following for an effective service. Please pay particular attention to the amount of music recommended:

Here are some suggestions for music as part of a Sunday service and how to use and place other elements of your service.

1. Prelude music –usually instrumental. Prelude music sets the atmosphere you desire sacred or upbeat. Usually 5 – 10 minutes while people enter. Prelude can also be used to teach the congregants new songs that will be sung during service. (8)

Notice they recommend the prelude music to “set the atmosphere”, while people enter. As we have already discussed this element of trance induction I will not labor the point any further.

The dictionary definition of the word ‘Invocation,’ relates to the use of magic to conjure up spirits from other worlds. It is possible that the invocation is doing little more than having the subject enter into a trance state, so that they perceive spirits, due to the hypnotic induction and suggestion, which is compounded by their pre-established beliefs. Whether or not, we do actually contact god or the gods in this manner, is not the issue and may well be the case, however, I am looking at this phenomena from a strictly psychological point of view. As Carl Jung said “religion is a psychological phenomenon”. Whether there are more meta-physical aspects to these techniques, is not in dispute here, as there may well be, but then Christians would have to admit that Voodoos, Hindus, Buddhists and all other religions that induce this kind of trance, via invocations, also achieve true contact with the gods!

Here we have the entanglement of introduction and induction with new comers made to feel at ease and comfortable whilst the beginnings of trance induction are underscored with instrumental music.

5. Lord’s Prayer – many churches still use the Lord ’s Prayer as a familiar touchstone for visitors and those from other faiths. Unity is a Christian based faith so it is appropriate. There are many versions of the Lord’s Prayer with updated words more appropriate to our theology. The Lord ’s Prayer can be sung or spoken. It is effective leading into or out of meditation. (12)

Prayer, meditation, Lord’s prayer – contemplative music played under prayer/meditation, Lord’s Prayer can be sung by congregation with music team. (13)

This is my favorite part of the service. The “hypnotic snatch and grab,” as I call it! In many services, not all, but many, music will be played while the collection plate is being passed around. During which time, the preacher, pastor or minister, will be saying something like “give to god”, “give to Jesus” repeatedly. Well he did suffer immensely and die for you! The least you could do is give him a few dollars, right! The truth is, as shocking a revelation as this might be to some Christians Jesus does not get the money! With believers already in a highly suggestible state, the peer pressure and repeated suggestion, “give to god” places both conscious and subconscious pressure on the congregant to pay the church money. This element ties back to the theme brought up by Jordan Maxwell regarding Mother Circe bringing men into her abode, hypnotizing them, turning them into pigs and then feeding off them. Of course, not all churches pass around a collection plate, some just have an envelope in front of the pew, so that the church goer can donate anonymously. However, the collection plate is common enough to mention. Furthermore, relating back to the ‘bread of shame’ discussed in chapter 8, the congregants are entertained, given the opportunity to “get to god”, fed with wafers and wine, and so in the spirit of reciprocity, the church goer often feels compelled to give money to their church, lest they breach the compelling ‘norm of reciprocity’.

Separating children from their parents is common to most Christian services and achieves two objectives. First, it allows the parents to zone into the service and receive the full undistracted benefits of the hypnosis session and secondly, it replaces the children’s authority figure with a church member who is practiced in indoctrinating children and takes on the role of the child’s teacher. By placing the children in a new or separate environment from their parents, the child can be influenced to a greater degree and when the child goes home, this indoctrination is reinforced by their trusted parents. There is no escape from the belief, the children are given no choice in which belief system they are to adopt, they will become Christians without ever having a chance to assess the truth of that belief for them self.


There are many denominations of Christianity each with their own slightly unique order of service, however there are commonalities between most Christian services and these commonalities are designed to mentally manipulate the participant via trance induction, so that their subjective beliefs about god and the truth never come into question. The above example illustrates some of the typical elements of most Protestant Christian services. As stated by Frank Viola and George Barna:

With some minor rearrangements, this is the unbroken liturgy that 345 million Protestants across the globe observe religiously week after week.' And for the last five hundred years, few people have questioned it.

Look again at the order of worship. Notice that it includes a threefold structure: (1) singing, (2) the sermon, and (3) closing prayer or song. This order of worship is viewed as sacrosanct in the eyes of many present-day Christians. (18)

So why is this important? Christianity, since its beginnings, has employed various forms of psychological manipulation which is focused on reinforcing the beliefs of passive believers. It demonstrates that religion, as is also the case with politics, is not about truth, but rather, it is about persuasion and manipulation.


Your experience of stage fright is also affected by 3 main things:

1. Genes

Genetics play a huge role in how strong your feelings of anxiety are in social situations. For instance, even though John Lennon performed on stage thousands of times, he was known for throwing up before going on stage for his live performances.

Some people are simply genetically wired to feel more scared when performing or speaking in public.

2. Level of task mastery

We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” The main benefit of practice is to increase your familiarity of a given task. As this familiarity increases, feelings of anxiety decrease, and have less of a negative impact on performance.

In other words, the anxiety you feel about speaking in public will be less, the more comfortable you feel with your presentation.

To support these findings, in 1982, a team of psychologists watched pool players play alone or in front of crowd. The study found that:

What this means is if you know your presentation inside out, it’s more likely that you’ll give an even better presentation in front of a large audience than when you rehearsed alone or in front of a friend.

3. Stakes

If you’re giving a presentation where your business is on the line or the whole nation is watching you speak, there’s an increased chance that your reputation could be massively damaged if you screw up.

As the stakes increase, there’s a chance your reputation could be completely ruined if you perform poorly, which triggers the release of more adrenaline, and can result in paralyzing fear and anxiety.

We’ve seen the effect of stakes on reputation in online communities as well. For example, many eBay sellers worry about their reputation a ton because it directly effects how much money they make. One piece of negative feedback can ruin an eBay seller’s profile and cause them to lose sales.

In fact, one study found that a good reputation for a seller on eBay added 7.6 percent to the sale price of their items.

Having a good reputation is important to protect but, this also leads to having a fear that one slip-up could ruin your reputation and cause the loss of future opportunities.


When John Lennon was asked in 1975 why so many adults disliked rock and roll, calling it the ‘devil’s music’, he replied: ‘I always thought that it’s because it came from Black music.’ Reflecting on the past 400 years of white supremacy in the United States, including the recent attempted insurrection at the US Capitol in January 2021, I often wonder what Lennon would say of us today. Would he tell us to ‘Imagine there’s no heaven’ or would he sing ‘Stand by me’? Would he cry ‘Mother’ or remind us that love really ‘is the answer’?

I am a professor of philosophy, and I have always thought in sound. Allow me to fine-tune, in my own way. One of the distinctive features of my cognition is that not only do I think with sound and music I also don’t think in images during my waking hours (although I dream vividly and visually at night). This lack of visual imagery is known as aphantasia, partial in my case. Along with another condition known as mild auditory processing disorder, my learning differences have resulted in tremendous difficulty and inconsistencies in reading, writing and, sadly, even speaking at times. I specialise in the thought of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and I often wonder what he would have done with the aphantasiacs. He understood that the working of the imagination – often believed to be the source of mental imagery – can either enhance or weaken one’s ability to thrive, depending on which ideas of reason they were paired with. Indeed, I completed my doctorate only because of patient teachers who care deeply.

It’s an odd thing to try to explain to others what it means to have the experience of an empty head while I’m awake. Experts in aphantasia call this a trouble with one’s ‘mind’s eye’. I disagree. Not only is consciousness irreducible to mere brain matter – as our ideas are not actual objects I can put into your hands – but my neurological particularities might also explain my connections to thinking in sound. We humans are not only made of words, as the music historian, jazz enthusiast and former graduate student in philosophy Ted Gioia demonstrates in Music: A Subversive History (2019). Gioia’s book has set the rhythm for my own thoughts on music and sound. The point is, if I can teach and work with challenging philosophical systems without the use of images in my mind’s eye, not to mention struggling with the words, then imaginative pictures (even imagining language) might not be as important to reasoning as some people think. Spinoza might agree: rational ideas have laws of nature uniquely their own.

I can’t spell or follow correct grammatical rules. Just ask my editor. Yet I can pick up and identify the sounds of almost any language easily, even if remembering the words is the problem. This ability has something to do with memory, but it’s been the case ever since my brain has been forced to arrange the words I heard into a semi-acceptable and then mostly acceptable communicating language. Memory experts understand that song and story together can enhance memory. Gioia writes in support of these auditory aids, noting the cross-cultural history of the use of rhythm and sound since the beginning of the human species. I can’t read music or do upper-level mathematics, but music certainly helped me to learn Spinoza’s Ethics, one of the most logically challenging systems ever devised in Western philosophy – a system that became quite obvious to me in its logical beauty and creative, affirmative force.

E ven if I find language to be a challenge, music and sound can assist. I am an avid music experiencer, a sound adventurer, and a lover of almost every genre of music – although, like all of us, I do press repeat on some of my favourite songs and sounds. The pandemic has me reaching toward those I care for most, which at present concern the head and the heart. That’s also the name of the musicians featured here – and their songs serve as a hug, a thread of connection and a musical love letter to a dear friend and muse, far away.

As a child, I used to stare at the keys on my grandmother’s piano, teaching myself about sound and thought, often when I couldn’t find the right words to express myself or explain my experience. When I was very young, I heard words backwards by syllable. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that I had my own language when learning how to speak? This ‘problem’ corrected itself within those first few years of life but, to this day, my 92-year-young ‘Grandma’ still signs some of her letters ‘Love, Magra’.

On my second piano lesson in my early 20s, right after graduating with a psychology degree and a few classes short of a double philosophy major, my gentle piano instructor said: ‘You’re a natural! Do you want a piano?’ He was offering me an upright baby grand from a 1960s commune. All I had to do was transport it. (Helpful hint: you can easily slide a large piano across the floor on pillows.) Now I had my own piano and I tried to learn how to play by ear. But, to this day, I still can’t read sheet music, and most piano teachers won’t teach you if you can’t ‘read’ music.

Not all sounds need to or can have names, and yet we both experience them and also learn from them

This attention to notation perhaps dates back to the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who tried to make a measured metre from the magic and power of the sounds he heard: of ironsmiths in the marketplace, of good company and conversation, of falling pebbles. (Pythagoras once held up a stone before one of his students and declared: ‘This is frozen music.’) Before Pythagoras, Gioia notes, ‘women played a central role in music – especially the drumming that we have come to associate with trance states.’ However, once Pythagoras hit the scene, everything became about the more male domains of mathematics and logos (reason) – that is, measurement and language, instead of the aulos (a pan-pipe made of reeds) and song. As Gioia writes:

Such interference with the immediacy and power of music and sound remains in force to this day. Gioia goes on to describe a story from a specialist in avant-garde classical composition, who told the author that he’d been attacked at a conference recently for focusing on how the work ‘sounded’: ‘He was told repeatedly by his peers that he should ignore such banal considerations, and focus instead on the compositional strategies employed.’ Yet the mystic Eckhart Tolle has also noted that some of our most profound moments are those we encounter without description – such as any new (positive) experience in a place we’ve never visited before, or delicious meals we’ve never tasted before, or beautiful sounds and instruments we’ve never heard before. The unnameable and the unfathomable can be striking, affective not all sounds need to or can have names, and yet we both experience them and also learn from them. New research on binaural music – where the frequency of sound is slightly different in both ears – suggests that such noises can alter our brainwaves and mental processes for the better. Gioia notes that in ‘the heart of the atom’ particles move at extraordinary speeds of up to 100 trillion times per second, ‘creating a tone some 20 octaves above the range of our hearing’.

Along with touch, sound is one of the first senses to develop – long before sight or smell. Developing human foetuses can hear their mother’s heartbeats (and voices) in utero. We hear gentle, albeit muffled sounds while developing, less muffled and more acute sounds when we’re born, definitely all kinds of muffled and acute sounds while alive – and according to many spiritual traditions, we might hear the most perfect music when we die. Perhaps this is another reason why sound and rhythm are such universal forces: they’re some of the founding experiences of all human beings. Gioia opens his work on music by noting that, in Hindu iconography, Shiva is holding a drum at the moment of creation an apt image, given that contemporary science dubs the beginning of the Universe ‘the Big Bang’.

I kept that piano for several years, and then for a few years more in storage. It helped me dream of those days when one of the great loves of my life used to play for me. We would break into our university auditorium at midnight and rush the stage. With one light bulb hanging above our heads in the rafters, I lay under the keys, closed my eyes, and felt his vibrations and energy radiating through my body and mind as he played those keys well into the night, anything by the Beatles or Billy Joel from memory.

Spinoza understood the power of the imagination when coupled with the force of rational ideas. Together, they make what we might call a kind of music – something that transcends any one narrative, description or formal use of language altogether. For Spinoza, reason is something distinct from imaginative knowledge, but language resides within the imagination. Yet while some believe that music and sound exist in a domain apart from reason, I hold that they can still enhance deep thinking and reflective thought. Perhaps even more importantly, sound and music can be felt. For Spinoza, all sensations are partial and imaginative, and must be converted into knowledge. As Gioia notes, singing releases oxytocin into the brain and body, which in turn creates a feeling of unity, collaboration and cooperation with those around us.

This felt dimension of knowledge can be a problem for those who prefer instead to measure and track. You can’t feel what another is feeling often, the only way to measure the experience of another is through language, logical reasoning and, perhaps, various forms of technology, but these aren’t the only ways. If I think in sound, and even if I can send only a virtual hug to your ears in song – if they act as a kind of glue for my memories, or simply reduce my anxiety with language itself – then there’s even more that can’t be measured. Perhaps it can only be felt first and then legitimated later?

‘Both the length of respirations and the total breaths per minute are locked in to a spooky symmetry’

If sound and music transcend language and logic, how can they assist anyone to do something as complex as philosophy? Plato might have understood this paradox, but in a hidden way. He might have even coded the Republic using Pythagorean ideas to hide his theory of just how powerful music and sound actually are for human beings (something that shamans and some indigenous cultures have always understood). Citing research by the musicologist J B Kennedy, Gioia writes:

Gioia observes that even Socrates, Plato’s mentor, grasped the value of concealed meanings and withholding the kind of information that could get you killed – although I’m not sure how successful he was at that practice in the end. Socrates was unjustly put to death for proving that freedom of thought is distinctly human, and that it might be connected to our souls, including their possible afterlife. The idea of sound and rhythm, especially as it links to breathing and health, is a much more significant connection than many today believe. In Breath (2020), the journalist James Nestor emphasises that modern biomedical science is beginning to verify certain rhythmic and ancient Eastern breathing practices that lead to significantly better health: ‘the most efficient breathing rhythm occurs when both the length of respirations and the total breaths per minute are locked in to a spooky symmetry – 5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute.’ Moreover, Nestor observes that these techniques are of the same rhythms as acts of prayer:

T he idea of harmony and rhythm, musically and physically, has been the subject of careful attention from philosophers. In Book III of the Republic, Plato is careful to distinguish between the concept of language on the one hand, and the concept of harmony and rhythm on the other – although he needed both to better articulate the meaning of the human soul. He claimed that there is a natural rhythm, grace and harmony for all things: ‘weaving, embroidery, architecture, and every kind of manufacture also nature, animal and vegetable. In all of them there is grace or the absence of grace.’ This extends to acts in service of the community. I often think Plato might not get enough credit for his communally oriented thinking but, then again, he might have borrowed some of this from indigenous cultures before him too. For Plato, if the youth are to do what they’re good at – to add their individual, natural talents to the collective – they must also make harmony and grace ‘their perpetual aim’. Nonetheless, they can’t get lost in mystical chants or sad songs. Aristotle thought that the aulos made a disgusting sound, and Socrates and Plato frowned upon it too.

We can debate what Plato intends by the concept of grace, and many have for thousands of years. But his identification of the role of harmony in promoting cohesion and cooperation – of sound and music, or at the very least of singing together – is surely right. It even created some actual magic. As Gioia demonstrates, singing was a vital collective activity for the earliest humans, and remained the way of many shamanistic cultures for centuries, up to and including today. Plato was worried about those darn flute players they couldn’t speak while playing, and flutes were known to be used by those he believed to be less well-educated. But he might have realised his error upon his death bed: in a moment of irony that’s not lost on philosophers, and after having written and spoken so many words, Plato requested a flute player to ease him into death, and perhaps into the next life too.

‘Music of the right kind can serve to orient and anchor a patient when almost nothing else can’

To Plato’s credit, his scepticism of music flowed from the idea that we can’t get lost in a trance all day – not if we’re going to get work done for ourselves and our neighbours in a democratic, free, educated and creative society. Plato understood that music and sound had the power to transform humans and elicit profound emotions he desired that great poets and artists create certain rhythms and sounds for times of war, and other songs for times of peace. I too make love not war, but so many haven’t truly heard me. Perhaps, with the mild auditory processing disorder and more, it was not their fault either. This is the challenge of learning differences. I am differently abled and the more music playing the better!

Music, then, can be a form of healing. The late neurologist Oliver Sacks studied the phenomena of music and sound, being able to bring forth seemingly lost memories in his patients. In Musicophilia (2007), Sacks writes that music therapy with those with dementia ‘is possible because musical perception, musical sensibility, musical emotion, and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory have disappeared. Music of the right kind can serve to orient and anchor a patient when almost nothing else can.’

These healing properties apply to our bodies as well. The neurosurgeon Bernie Siegel often played music to his patients in the operating room. While they were under anaesthesia, Siegel whispered into their ears that they could relax, enjoy their favourite music or sounds and, while doing so, he would appreciate it if they would also bleed less during surgery. To his colleagues’ surprise, this appeared to work: according to Siegel, his patients made incredible recoveries in very short periods of time, and bled much less than the average patient during surgery too. Measurable effects following metaphysical suggestions.

T hroughout the global pandemic, I’ve noticed how much we need our favourite sounds – sounds that comfort, sounds that heal the sounds of sports fans, the sounds of lovers, friends, family the sounds of our pets, of nature. That’s also how sound heals. It’s both individual and communal, a collective of individual sounds. Sound includes rhythm, as we noted above, and rhythm is about timing. The philosopher Thomas Nail has developed a new philosophical ontology – a theory of what it means ‘to be’ – which is something we don’t get very often in philosophy. In Being and Motion (2018), he builds on the ancient philosophy of Lucretius, who argued that all of nature (including space and time) is composed of flows, folds and fields – that is, entropic arrangements and unfolding processes always in motion. When you go to measure anything, you need space and time to do it. But, as Nail convincingly argues, such practices wouldn’t be possible if the flows, folds and fields of motion and movement itself were not already in play. Consciousness never stops moving.

So while some words might be lost on me, motion and rhythm are not. If motion comes first for some philosophers, then our bodies, at least for both Gioia and Nail, were the first instruments for the first humans, hundreds of thousands of years ago. ‘Kinetic sounds did not emerge ex nihilo from the speaking body they were gathered from elsewhere,’ Nail writes. ‘All human phonemes already existed in natural and animal sounds before the human ear ever heard them.’

Each major shift in technology changes the way people sing

We certainly need a lot of healing right now. Art therapists, not to mention musicians and music therapists, have a nuanced understanding of how music and sound can soothe and regenerate the body and mind. Recall that, in philosophy, the mind is not the brain. Sound can serve to stimulate the other senses too, including provoking images and sensations of certain scents or colours, such as for those who have synaesthesia. Sound is also about vibration, and music is also about energy. As the inventor Nikola Tesla said in the 1940s: ‘If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.’

What will the new sounds of our world feel like, I wonder? Gioia writes: ‘Each major shift in technology changes the way people sing.’ More importantly perhaps, he prophesies that, if authorities don’t interfere, ‘music tends to expand personal autonomy and human freedom’. I’ll be leaving academia soon after 15 years or so of successful teaching. I’ll miss the students and classroom tremendously, but I need a break from all the monitored words and background authority figures. They’ve missed a few notes, and I can sing from anywhere. I’ve been ‘in college’ since 1994, on and off. My writing has improved, but barely. Reading is still very challenging and yet I do it daily. As for speaking? That depends on who I’m talking with and how I feel when I’m with them. I have new notes to play now. I’ve made my small contribution to the history of philosophy, often because of the caring heartbeats and ideas I’ve shared with others.

As fellow travellers in the balancing of our souls, humans can strive to maintain their artistic and scientific guardianship over truth, beauty and goodness. But nature is so much more than what humans can guard, name or define. As Gioia sings: ‘Music is always more than notes. It is made out of sounds. Confusing these two is not a small matter … music does not happen in the brain. Music takes place in the world … Songs still possess magic, even for those who have forgotten how to tap into it.’ Presto!

is professor of philosophy at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. She is the co-editor of the essay collection Philosophy and Film: Bridging Divides (2019) and a regular contributor to the American Philosophical Association blog, with an interview series on the philosophy of time.


How to Be an Effective Communicator in 7 Easy Steps

Effective communication is an essential skill for achieving success in all areas of life, whether personal or professional. Communication skills breed confidence and optimism, two character traits that enable you to accomplish your goals. Some people find that communication comes naturally for others, it&rsquos more difficult. But if you fall into the latter category, you don&rsquot need a communication degree to make yourself heard&mdashor to get what you want and need. The challenge of how to be an effective communicator gets far easier when you follow these seven steps:

Identify Your Objectives
What do you hope to accomplish, either immediately or long term? What action or response from your audience will show that you have communicated successfully? Understanding your objectives will help shape your communication style and make you more effective.

Listen Actively
Communication isn&rsquot just about what you say. If you want people to listen to you, you need to listen to them. Don&rsquot get so focused on what you&rsquore saying that you miss their important comments, emotions, and reactions. Likewise, when others are speaking, listen and process what they&rsquore trying to communicate instead of planning your response. When everyone is actively involved, communication is far more effective.

Note Your Body Language
Communication involves not just the words you speak, but what your body is saying. Without realizing it, your body language can send a stronger message than your words. If you sit or stand with your shoulders hunched and your arms folded across your chest, you show that your guard is up and you&rsquore unwilling to have productive, two-way discussions. Alternatively, when you sit or stand up straight with your arms at your sides, or relax into a more casual pose, you project openness and a willingness to communicate&mdashbefore you&rsquove said a single word.

Know Your Audience
The same speech, conversation, or sales pitch won&rsquot succeed with every audience. Modify your language for each group so that you&rsquore not being condescending or speaking in a way in which your audience can&rsquot understand. Adjusting how and what you say to match your audience will improve your communication skills.

Pace Yourself
Pay attention to how quickly you&rsquore speaking and whether your audience appears to be processing what you&rsquore saying. Slow down if necessary, and vary the volume and rhythm of your speech to hold their attention. It&rsquos important to deliberately repeat important points a few times to make sure your listeners hear what you have to say.

Choose the Right Time
If you&rsquore planning to ask your boss for a raise, make sure he or she is in a receptive mood. If there&rsquos a big problem on the production line or your company has lost a big account, it&rsquos not the best time to bring up the subject. So, in general&mdashwhether you&rsquore planning to deliver good or bad news or simply presenting a new idea that requires energy and focus&mdashbe aware of your audience&rsquos mind-set. Timing is a big factor in successful communication.

Be Clear
Don&rsquot spend too much time setting up your idea or request. Communicate your needs and desires clearly. You&rsquoll not only avoid misunderstandings, you&rsquoll earn respect through your honesty and clarity and have a greater chance of accomplishing your goal.

By applying these tips and practicing often, you can master the skills and learn how to be an effective communicator. Great communicators choose their words well, understand their audience, and connect with them at the right time and place.

Explore Walden University's online BS in Communication degree and our full suite of communication degree programs for undergraduates and graduates. Get the help you need to continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.

Fill out the form and we will contact you to provide information about furthering your education.


Denotative Meaning

Denotative meaning The common agreed-upon meaning of a word that is often found in dictionaries. is the specific meaning associated with a word. We sometimes refer to denotative meanings as dictionary definitions. The definitions provided above for the word “blue” are examples of definitions that might be found in a dictionary. The first dictionary was written by Robert Cawdry in 1604 and was called Table Alphabeticall. This dictionary of the English language consisted of three thousand commonly spoken English words. Today, the Oxford English Dictionary contains more than 200,000 words. Oxford University Press. (2011). How many words are there in the English language? Retrieved from http://oxforddictionaries.com/page/howmanywords


Church and Hypnotic Manipulation

I n the third volume of my ‘I Am Christ’ series, I dedicate two chapters to examining hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), as they apply to most, if not all, Christian Church services.

The following is a small excerpt from I Am Christ Vol. 3: The Ascension – Understanding, which includes a brief background on hypnosis as well as the second stage of hypnosis.

Hypnosis Misunderstood

Contrary to popular myth, hypnosis is not about turning people into chickens! It is true however, that deep trance hypnosis can dramatically alter one’s perception of reality, in much the same way that meditation, prayer, long term fasting, entrancing religious rituals, or walking for miles in the hot desert. Contrary to the title of this chapter, there is nothing magic about hypnosis. A popular misconception regarding hypnosis is that it involves a sleeping state, in which the subject is covertly forced to adopt thoughts and behaviors which they would otherwise, be adverse to. The trance-state can and usually is, induced via hypnosis while the subject is wide awake this state is known as the ‘waking trance’ and is the most common form of trance. Under this waking trance, it is unlikely even impossible, that hypnosis alone can cause the subject to think and behave in a manner that is contrary to their moral constitution and established principles. Having said that, when hypnosis is combined with N.L.P (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), it can, and quite often does, result in the changing of a person’s ideas, beliefs and behaviors. Subjects under hypnosis will usually remain acutely aware of their surroundings and may not even know that they are in the hypnotic state. The trance-state induced by hypnosis is a relaxing, slightly altered state of consciousness, which is very natural and commonly experienced by everyone almost every day. Whether we experience it during our favorite TV show or driving down a long stretch of highway, we all go into trance daily and we are seldom aware that we are in this state of slightly altered consciousness. Have you ever been in a daze while being asked questions by someone and you ended up asking them what you had just agreed to? Or have you ever walked into a room to get something and then forgotten what you had to get, once you were in the room? Because trance is a regularly experienced state of mind, it makes it hard to tell when we are going in and out of it. It is familiar to all of us yet, just as the deep sea dweller fails to notice the water around them for the fish and the coral, we take this state of mind for granted.

Hypnosis is essentially, a mental state**, usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction. The induction is commonly composed of a long series of preliminary instructions and suggestions.(1) Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject, or may be self-administered ("self-suggestion" or "auto-suggestion").
The words 'hypnosis' and 'hypnotism' both derive from the term "neuro-hypnotism" (nervous sleep) coined by the Scottish surgeon James Braid in 1841. Braid based his practice on the earlier work of Franz Anton Mesmer, whose name is the origin of the word ‘mesmerized’. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Franz Anton Mesmer developed what is known as "Mesmerism" or "animal magnetism". He was heavily influenced by the earlier work of Father Maximillian Hell, a Catholic Priest, who had been using magnets and prayer to hypnotize subjects and had some success in healing hysterical conditions, such as hysterical blindness and similar psychologically rooted problems.

Contemporary research suggests that hypnosis is a wakeful state of focused attention and heightened suggestibility, with diminished peripheral awareness. (2) This heightened state of suggestibility is the primary focus of both this chapter and the next. What and how intensely can one be manipulated to believe a given proposition, if one is under hypnosis? And more importantly, if one does not realize that they are being hypnotized over and over again doesn’t this constitute manipulative conduct on the part of the hypnotist(s)? These two questions underscore the following investigation into the magic of Christianity.


The 5 Stages of Hypnosis

A typical hypnotherapy session contains five stages:]

1. Introduction
2. Induction
3. Deepening
4. Suggestion and
5. Awakening.


It is the contention of this author that the same five stages can be found within most Christian church services. The hypnotic techniques employed during church sessions have served to further entrench Christian beliefs into the minds of Christian subjects and so demonstrates the mentally manipulative religious package offered by the Christian religion.


According to professional hypnotists, the subject’s mind must contain four primary criteria in order for the hypnosis to work. The acronym is known in the profession as, B.I.C.E:

1. Belief
2. Imagination
3. Conviction and
4. Expectation


These elements are generally found in abundance in the mind of the true believing, church going Christian. Generally, those who attend church believe that their pastor or preacher is speaking the word of god, which has very powerful psychological implications and satisfies the first criteria of the list above. Further, the church goer’s imagination is engaged at almost all times throughout the service, during the singing, the sermon, the prayer and it is probably the hardest working aspect of the four criteria set out above. Next, professional hypnotists say that the subject must have conviction and the stronger the better! There is almost nothing in this world that inspires conviction, like one’s religious beliefs. The attendee is convinced that the church service is permeated by the spirit of their god, which leads to the expectation, that they will “feel the spirit.” In truth, the elation one gets from “feeling the spirit” may be little more than the pleasure and catharsis of entering a trance.


(Stage one has been taken out of this post by the author)


Stage 2: The Induction: Removing the Filter


The purpose of the induction stage is to have the subject enter a trance state.
A trance state, as mentioned above, is more often than not a state of consciousness that does not involve deep sleep, or a complete alteration of the mind. It commonly involves a slight, almost imperceptible change in focus and a light feeling of relaxation. Listening to one’s favorite music can often induce trance, along with other activities such as driving a car, washing the dishes, watching TV and many other mundane daily activities that require little participation from the conscious mind. Once the conscious mind is dismissed from the activity, the subconscious or unconscious mind is opened. Much like a key opening a locked door, the induction stage is primarily concerned with accessing the subconscious mind via trance.


In their book Unlimited Selling Power, Donald Moine and Kenneth Lloyd, discuss the trance associated with everyday activities in the following words:


Self-hypnosis occurs frequently in everyday life and can be found in such diverse activities as day-dreaming, jogging, prayer, reading, listening to music, meditation, or even driving the freeways. Once in the self-induced hypnotic state, suggestibility is greatly heightened. Psychological barriers and defenses are lowered, and the person's unconscious becomes more receptive to new programming. (3)


The trance state is one in which the subject’s subconscious mind is brought to the surface. Subsequently, the subject in trance is more prone to receiving suggestions in a less critical fashion. This is due to the absence of the critically analytical conscious mind, which questions and assesses information upon rational grounds.


As stated by William Hewitt, in his book ‘Hypnosis for Beginners’:


The conscious mind does not take suggestions well. It is most useful for thinking, reasoning and putting into action those things it already knows the subconscious mind, however, is like an obedient slave. It doesn’t think or reason. (4)

The subconscious mind has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality, which is why our dreams seem real at the time. During the dream state, the subconscious or unconscious mind, is not critically evaluating the probability of flying over a house in pink underwear, while being chased by a vicious dog with wings. It is happening now! It is real! It is only when we wake up that we realize it was all just a silly dream. But what happens when we don’t wake up from our subconsciously inspired fictions? This is the dilemma faced by the conscious mind of the believer. One could view the subconscious mind as the gateway to our conscious mind, allowing it to be manipulated in to believing things which it would otherwise see as irrational. Here in lies the power of hypnotic induction, when it comes to changing, molding, or maintaining irrational and unsound beliefs.


The ‘Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science’ sums up the effect of hypnotically induced manipulation upon the subconscious mind in the following terms:

Accessing the conscious mind via the subconscious is a little like commissioning a mutiny aboard a ship. The conscious mind is usually the captain, steering the ship and making decisions on behalf of the crew or subconscious, however when the captain or conscious mind is bypassed, the crew is given the power to alter the course of the ship. It is however, the captain alone, who possesses the necessary skills of navigation and engineering and so when the crew is directly accessed and given authority over and above the captain, the ship can be steered in any given direction and this can often result in the ship being steered off course.

I have already spoken about factors that may help induce the trance state such as, the monotonous nature of everyday activities, post hypnotic programming, the environmental impact on our state of mind and melodic music. So now, I would like to focus more on the role of music in inducing trance, as it is a common element in almost all church services and has a tremendous power to illicit an emotional response from the listener.


Music and Trance Induction


Music is an extremely effective instrument for trance induction. Most people can relate to the feeling of listening to music that either inspires or relaxes their thoughts and emotions. Music is designed to engage us at both the conscious and unconscious levels. It can make a person angry, sad, happy, sleepy, or even inspire the listener with confidence before a big event. The famous rock and roll singer, Henry Rollins once said that, he listens to a rap group called ‘Public Enemy’, before he performs, because it “gets him in the right mood”. The military uses it to entrance their soldiers and get them ready for battle and so do nations with their national anthems, which inspire an almost religious feeling in some. Members of the Voodoo religion in Haiti use it to evoke trance states and the religions of antiquity would also use music to invoke the “spiritual experience”.


Left Brain Lyrics and Right Brain Rhythm


It has been said by Psychologists that the left hemisphere of the brain is the dominant hemisphere and is responsible for our conscious mind while our right hemisphere houses our creative, intuitive subconscious and is responsible for interpreting music. Referring once again to the ‘Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science’:


The dominant (most often left) cerebral hemisphere is associated with information representation and processing, which is sequential or in series, digital, and abstract. It is characterized by analytical and logical processing that deals with detail. It plays a major role in the processing of verbal information, and in particular digital or abstract linguistic representation. Of the two cerebral hemispheres the dominant one is considered to be involved with consciousness, especially self-consciousness.


The minor (most often right) cerebral hemisphere is associated with information representation and processing, which is simultaneous or in parallel, analog, and holistic. It is characterised by Gestalt, analogical, and integrative processing, which deals with more spatial and global information and with novel (creative) or unfamiliar information. It plays a major role in the processing of naturomorphic or imagistic representations and in particular the processing of nonverbal and emotional information, spatial and pictorial information (symbols), and music and other non-language sounds. (6)


Therefore music with lyrics could be argued to target the listener’s left and right brain simultaneously. It is possible, that the left brain is being distracted by words and messages, while the right brain is being entranced by the beat and melody of the music.


It is little wonder that songs and hymns have been playing an increasing role in Christian worship, especially ‘Protestant Born Again’, Evangelical and so called Charismatic or ‘New Seeker’ Churches, as these churches lack the awe inspiring architecture of their Catholic counterparts.


In an article posted by the Unity Christian Church, called ‘Suggestions for an Effective Order of Service’, they say:

If one is to read this with an adequate knowledge of hypnosis, it becomes apparent that what they are proposing, is a more effective method of completely entrancing and evoking an emotional acceptance of the church’s ministry or suggestions. This is not a technique which seeks to impart a simple and universal truth, it is a technique aimed at overcoming the left brained rational and critical faculties, in order to take over the ship, so to speak!


The Unity Christian Church goes on to suggest the following for an effective service. Please pay particular attention to the amount of music recommended:

Here are some suggestions for music as part of a Sunday service and how to use and place other elements of your service.

1. Prelude music –usually instrumental. Prelude music sets the atmosphere you desire sacred or upbeat. Usually 5 – 10 minutes while people enter. Prelude can also be used to teach the congregants new songs that will be sung during service. (8)

Notice they recommend the prelude music to “set the atmosphere”, while people enter. As we have already discussed this element of trance induction I will not labor the point any further.

The dictionary definition of the word ‘Invocation,’ relates to the use of magic to conjure up spirits from other worlds. It is possible that the invocation is doing little more than having the subject enter into a trance state, so that they perceive spirits, due to the hypnotic induction and suggestion, which is compounded by their pre-established beliefs. Whether or not, we do actually contact god or the gods in this manner, is not the issue and may well be the case, however, I am looking at this phenomena from a strictly psychological point of view. As Carl Jung said “religion is a psychological phenomenon”. Whether there are more meta-physical aspects to these techniques, is not in dispute here, as there may well be, but then Christians would have to admit that Voodoos, Hindus, Buddhists and all other religions that induce this kind of trance, via invocations, also achieve true contact with the gods!

Here we have the entanglement of introduction and induction with new comers made to feel at ease and comfortable whilst the beginnings of trance induction are underscored with instrumental music.

5. Lord’s Prayer – many churches still use the Lord ’s Prayer as a familiar touchstone for visitors and those from other faiths. Unity is a Christian based faith so it is appropriate. There are many versions of the Lord’s Prayer with updated words more appropriate to our theology. The Lord ’s Prayer can be sung or spoken. It is effective leading into or out of meditation. (12)

Prayer, meditation, Lord’s prayer – contemplative music played under prayer/meditation, Lord’s Prayer can be sung by congregation with music team. (13)

This is my favorite part of the service. The “hypnotic snatch and grab,” as I call it! In many services, not all, but many, music will be played while the collection plate is being passed around. During which time, the preacher, pastor or minister, will be saying something like “give to god”, “give to Jesus” repeatedly. Well he did suffer immensely and die for you! The least you could do is give him a few dollars, right! The truth is, as shocking a revelation as this might be to some Christians Jesus does not get the money! With believers already in a highly suggestible state, the peer pressure and repeated suggestion, “give to god” places both conscious and subconscious pressure on the congregant to pay the church money. This element ties back to the theme brought up by Jordan Maxwell regarding Mother Circe bringing men into her abode, hypnotizing them, turning them into pigs and then feeding off them. Of course, not all churches pass around a collection plate, some just have an envelope in front of the pew, so that the church goer can donate anonymously. However, the collection plate is common enough to mention. Furthermore, relating back to the ‘bread of shame’ discussed in chapter 8, the congregants are entertained, given the opportunity to “get to god”, fed with wafers and wine, and so in the spirit of reciprocity, the church goer often feels compelled to give money to their church, lest they breach the compelling ‘norm of reciprocity’.

Separating children from their parents is common to most Christian services and achieves two objectives. First, it allows the parents to zone into the service and receive the full undistracted benefits of the hypnosis session and secondly, it replaces the children’s authority figure with a church member who is practiced in indoctrinating children and takes on the role of the child’s teacher. By placing the children in a new or separate environment from their parents, the child can be influenced to a greater degree and when the child goes home, this indoctrination is reinforced by their trusted parents. There is no escape from the belief, the children are given no choice in which belief system they are to adopt, they will become Christians without ever having a chance to assess the truth of that belief for them self.


There are many denominations of Christianity each with their own slightly unique order of service, however there are commonalities between most Christian services and these commonalities are designed to mentally manipulate the participant via trance induction, so that their subjective beliefs about god and the truth never come into question. The above example illustrates some of the typical elements of most Protestant Christian services. As stated by Frank Viola and George Barna:

With some minor rearrangements, this is the unbroken liturgy that 345 million Protestants across the globe observe religiously week after week.' And for the last five hundred years, few people have questioned it.

Look again at the order of worship. Notice that it includes a threefold structure: (1) singing, (2) the sermon, and (3) closing prayer or song. This order of worship is viewed as sacrosanct in the eyes of many present-day Christians. (18)

So why is this important? Christianity, since its beginnings, has employed various forms of psychological manipulation which is focused on reinforcing the beliefs of passive believers. It demonstrates that religion, as is also the case with politics, is not about truth, but rather, it is about persuasion and manipulation.


When John Lennon was asked in 1975 why so many adults disliked rock and roll, calling it the ‘devil’s music’, he replied: ‘I always thought that it’s because it came from Black music.’ Reflecting on the past 400 years of white supremacy in the United States, including the recent attempted insurrection at the US Capitol in January 2021, I often wonder what Lennon would say of us today. Would he tell us to ‘Imagine there’s no heaven’ or would he sing ‘Stand by me’? Would he cry ‘Mother’ or remind us that love really ‘is the answer’?

I am a professor of philosophy, and I have always thought in sound. Allow me to fine-tune, in my own way. One of the distinctive features of my cognition is that not only do I think with sound and music I also don’t think in images during my waking hours (although I dream vividly and visually at night). This lack of visual imagery is known as aphantasia, partial in my case. Along with another condition known as mild auditory processing disorder, my learning differences have resulted in tremendous difficulty and inconsistencies in reading, writing and, sadly, even speaking at times. I specialise in the thought of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and I often wonder what he would have done with the aphantasiacs. He understood that the working of the imagination – often believed to be the source of mental imagery – can either enhance or weaken one’s ability to thrive, depending on which ideas of reason they were paired with. Indeed, I completed my doctorate only because of patient teachers who care deeply.

It’s an odd thing to try to explain to others what it means to have the experience of an empty head while I’m awake. Experts in aphantasia call this a trouble with one’s ‘mind’s eye’. I disagree. Not only is consciousness irreducible to mere brain matter – as our ideas are not actual objects I can put into your hands – but my neurological particularities might also explain my connections to thinking in sound. We humans are not only made of words, as the music historian, jazz enthusiast and former graduate student in philosophy Ted Gioia demonstrates in Music: A Subversive History (2019). Gioia’s book has set the rhythm for my own thoughts on music and sound. The point is, if I can teach and work with challenging philosophical systems without the use of images in my mind’s eye, not to mention struggling with the words, then imaginative pictures (even imagining language) might not be as important to reasoning as some people think. Spinoza might agree: rational ideas have laws of nature uniquely their own.

I can’t spell or follow correct grammatical rules. Just ask my editor. Yet I can pick up and identify the sounds of almost any language easily, even if remembering the words is the problem. This ability has something to do with memory, but it’s been the case ever since my brain has been forced to arrange the words I heard into a semi-acceptable and then mostly acceptable communicating language. Memory experts understand that song and story together can enhance memory. Gioia writes in support of these auditory aids, noting the cross-cultural history of the use of rhythm and sound since the beginning of the human species. I can’t read music or do upper-level mathematics, but music certainly helped me to learn Spinoza’s Ethics, one of the most logically challenging systems ever devised in Western philosophy – a system that became quite obvious to me in its logical beauty and creative, affirmative force.

E ven if I find language to be a challenge, music and sound can assist. I am an avid music experiencer, a sound adventurer, and a lover of almost every genre of music – although, like all of us, I do press repeat on some of my favourite songs and sounds. The pandemic has me reaching toward those I care for most, which at present concern the head and the heart. That’s also the name of the musicians featured here – and their songs serve as a hug, a thread of connection and a musical love letter to a dear friend and muse, far away.

As a child, I used to stare at the keys on my grandmother’s piano, teaching myself about sound and thought, often when I couldn’t find the right words to express myself or explain my experience. When I was very young, I heard words backwards by syllable. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that I had my own language when learning how to speak? This ‘problem’ corrected itself within those first few years of life but, to this day, my 92-year-young ‘Grandma’ still signs some of her letters ‘Love, Magra’.

On my second piano lesson in my early 20s, right after graduating with a psychology degree and a few classes short of a double philosophy major, my gentle piano instructor said: ‘You’re a natural! Do you want a piano?’ He was offering me an upright baby grand from a 1960s commune. All I had to do was transport it. (Helpful hint: you can easily slide a large piano across the floor on pillows.) Now I had my own piano and I tried to learn how to play by ear. But, to this day, I still can’t read sheet music, and most piano teachers won’t teach you if you can’t ‘read’ music.

Not all sounds need to or can have names, and yet we both experience them and also learn from them

This attention to notation perhaps dates back to the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who tried to make a measured metre from the magic and power of the sounds he heard: of ironsmiths in the marketplace, of good company and conversation, of falling pebbles. (Pythagoras once held up a stone before one of his students and declared: ‘This is frozen music.’) Before Pythagoras, Gioia notes, ‘women played a central role in music – especially the drumming that we have come to associate with trance states.’ However, once Pythagoras hit the scene, everything became about the more male domains of mathematics and logos (reason) – that is, measurement and language, instead of the aulos (a pan-pipe made of reeds) and song. As Gioia writes:

Such interference with the immediacy and power of music and sound remains in force to this day. Gioia goes on to describe a story from a specialist in avant-garde classical composition, who told the author that he’d been attacked at a conference recently for focusing on how the work ‘sounded’: ‘He was told repeatedly by his peers that he should ignore such banal considerations, and focus instead on the compositional strategies employed.’ Yet the mystic Eckhart Tolle has also noted that some of our most profound moments are those we encounter without description – such as any new (positive) experience in a place we’ve never visited before, or delicious meals we’ve never tasted before, or beautiful sounds and instruments we’ve never heard before. The unnameable and the unfathomable can be striking, affective not all sounds need to or can have names, and yet we both experience them and also learn from them. New research on binaural music – where the frequency of sound is slightly different in both ears – suggests that such noises can alter our brainwaves and mental processes for the better. Gioia notes that in ‘the heart of the atom’ particles move at extraordinary speeds of up to 100 trillion times per second, ‘creating a tone some 20 octaves above the range of our hearing’.

Along with touch, sound is one of the first senses to develop – long before sight or smell. Developing human foetuses can hear their mother’s heartbeats (and voices) in utero. We hear gentle, albeit muffled sounds while developing, less muffled and more acute sounds when we’re born, definitely all kinds of muffled and acute sounds while alive – and according to many spiritual traditions, we might hear the most perfect music when we die. Perhaps this is another reason why sound and rhythm are such universal forces: they’re some of the founding experiences of all human beings. Gioia opens his work on music by noting that, in Hindu iconography, Shiva is holding a drum at the moment of creation an apt image, given that contemporary science dubs the beginning of the Universe ‘the Big Bang’.

I kept that piano for several years, and then for a few years more in storage. It helped me dream of those days when one of the great loves of my life used to play for me. We would break into our university auditorium at midnight and rush the stage. With one light bulb hanging above our heads in the rafters, I lay under the keys, closed my eyes, and felt his vibrations and energy radiating through my body and mind as he played those keys well into the night, anything by the Beatles or Billy Joel from memory.

Spinoza understood the power of the imagination when coupled with the force of rational ideas. Together, they make what we might call a kind of music – something that transcends any one narrative, description or formal use of language altogether. For Spinoza, reason is something distinct from imaginative knowledge, but language resides within the imagination. Yet while some believe that music and sound exist in a domain apart from reason, I hold that they can still enhance deep thinking and reflective thought. Perhaps even more importantly, sound and music can be felt. For Spinoza, all sensations are partial and imaginative, and must be converted into knowledge. As Gioia notes, singing releases oxytocin into the brain and body, which in turn creates a feeling of unity, collaboration and cooperation with those around us.

This felt dimension of knowledge can be a problem for those who prefer instead to measure and track. You can’t feel what another is feeling often, the only way to measure the experience of another is through language, logical reasoning and, perhaps, various forms of technology, but these aren’t the only ways. If I think in sound, and even if I can send only a virtual hug to your ears in song – if they act as a kind of glue for my memories, or simply reduce my anxiety with language itself – then there’s even more that can’t be measured. Perhaps it can only be felt first and then legitimated later?

‘Both the length of respirations and the total breaths per minute are locked in to a spooky symmetry’

If sound and music transcend language and logic, how can they assist anyone to do something as complex as philosophy? Plato might have understood this paradox, but in a hidden way. He might have even coded the Republic using Pythagorean ideas to hide his theory of just how powerful music and sound actually are for human beings (something that shamans and some indigenous cultures have always understood). Citing research by the musicologist J B Kennedy, Gioia writes:

Gioia observes that even Socrates, Plato’s mentor, grasped the value of concealed meanings and withholding the kind of information that could get you killed – although I’m not sure how successful he was at that practice in the end. Socrates was unjustly put to death for proving that freedom of thought is distinctly human, and that it might be connected to our souls, including their possible afterlife. The idea of sound and rhythm, especially as it links to breathing and health, is a much more significant connection than many today believe. In Breath (2020), the journalist James Nestor emphasises that modern biomedical science is beginning to verify certain rhythmic and ancient Eastern breathing practices that lead to significantly better health: ‘the most efficient breathing rhythm occurs when both the length of respirations and the total breaths per minute are locked in to a spooky symmetry – 5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute.’ Moreover, Nestor observes that these techniques are of the same rhythms as acts of prayer:

T he idea of harmony and rhythm, musically and physically, has been the subject of careful attention from philosophers. In Book III of the Republic, Plato is careful to distinguish between the concept of language on the one hand, and the concept of harmony and rhythm on the other – although he needed both to better articulate the meaning of the human soul. He claimed that there is a natural rhythm, grace and harmony for all things: ‘weaving, embroidery, architecture, and every kind of manufacture also nature, animal and vegetable. In all of them there is grace or the absence of grace.’ This extends to acts in service of the community. I often think Plato might not get enough credit for his communally oriented thinking but, then again, he might have borrowed some of this from indigenous cultures before him too. For Plato, if the youth are to do what they’re good at – to add their individual, natural talents to the collective – they must also make harmony and grace ‘their perpetual aim’. Nonetheless, they can’t get lost in mystical chants or sad songs. Aristotle thought that the aulos made a disgusting sound, and Socrates and Plato frowned upon it too.

We can debate what Plato intends by the concept of grace, and many have for thousands of years. But his identification of the role of harmony in promoting cohesion and cooperation – of sound and music, or at the very least of singing together – is surely right. It even created some actual magic. As Gioia demonstrates, singing was a vital collective activity for the earliest humans, and remained the way of many shamanistic cultures for centuries, up to and including today. Plato was worried about those darn flute players they couldn’t speak while playing, and flutes were known to be used by those he believed to be less well-educated. But he might have realised his error upon his death bed: in a moment of irony that’s not lost on philosophers, and after having written and spoken so many words, Plato requested a flute player to ease him into death, and perhaps into the next life too.

‘Music of the right kind can serve to orient and anchor a patient when almost nothing else can’

To Plato’s credit, his scepticism of music flowed from the idea that we can’t get lost in a trance all day – not if we’re going to get work done for ourselves and our neighbours in a democratic, free, educated and creative society. Plato understood that music and sound had the power to transform humans and elicit profound emotions he desired that great poets and artists create certain rhythms and sounds for times of war, and other songs for times of peace. I too make love not war, but so many haven’t truly heard me. Perhaps, with the mild auditory processing disorder and more, it was not their fault either. This is the challenge of learning differences. I am differently abled and the more music playing the better!

Music, then, can be a form of healing. The late neurologist Oliver Sacks studied the phenomena of music and sound, being able to bring forth seemingly lost memories in his patients. In Musicophilia (2007), Sacks writes that music therapy with those with dementia ‘is possible because musical perception, musical sensibility, musical emotion, and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory have disappeared. Music of the right kind can serve to orient and anchor a patient when almost nothing else can.’

These healing properties apply to our bodies as well. The neurosurgeon Bernie Siegel often played music to his patients in the operating room. While they were under anaesthesia, Siegel whispered into their ears that they could relax, enjoy their favourite music or sounds and, while doing so, he would appreciate it if they would also bleed less during surgery. To his colleagues’ surprise, this appeared to work: according to Siegel, his patients made incredible recoveries in very short periods of time, and bled much less than the average patient during surgery too. Measurable effects following metaphysical suggestions.

T hroughout the global pandemic, I’ve noticed how much we need our favourite sounds – sounds that comfort, sounds that heal the sounds of sports fans, the sounds of lovers, friends, family the sounds of our pets, of nature. That’s also how sound heals. It’s both individual and communal, a collective of individual sounds. Sound includes rhythm, as we noted above, and rhythm is about timing. The philosopher Thomas Nail has developed a new philosophical ontology – a theory of what it means ‘to be’ – which is something we don’t get very often in philosophy. In Being and Motion (2018), he builds on the ancient philosophy of Lucretius, who argued that all of nature (including space and time) is composed of flows, folds and fields – that is, entropic arrangements and unfolding processes always in motion. When you go to measure anything, you need space and time to do it. But, as Nail convincingly argues, such practices wouldn’t be possible if the flows, folds and fields of motion and movement itself were not already in play. Consciousness never stops moving.

So while some words might be lost on me, motion and rhythm are not. If motion comes first for some philosophers, then our bodies, at least for both Gioia and Nail, were the first instruments for the first humans, hundreds of thousands of years ago. ‘Kinetic sounds did not emerge ex nihilo from the speaking body they were gathered from elsewhere,’ Nail writes. ‘All human phonemes already existed in natural and animal sounds before the human ear ever heard them.’

Each major shift in technology changes the way people sing

We certainly need a lot of healing right now. Art therapists, not to mention musicians and music therapists, have a nuanced understanding of how music and sound can soothe and regenerate the body and mind. Recall that, in philosophy, the mind is not the brain. Sound can serve to stimulate the other senses too, including provoking images and sensations of certain scents or colours, such as for those who have synaesthesia. Sound is also about vibration, and music is also about energy. As the inventor Nikola Tesla said in the 1940s: ‘If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.’

What will the new sounds of our world feel like, I wonder? Gioia writes: ‘Each major shift in technology changes the way people sing.’ More importantly perhaps, he prophesies that, if authorities don’t interfere, ‘music tends to expand personal autonomy and human freedom’. I’ll be leaving academia soon after 15 years or so of successful teaching. I’ll miss the students and classroom tremendously, but I need a break from all the monitored words and background authority figures. They’ve missed a few notes, and I can sing from anywhere. I’ve been ‘in college’ since 1994, on and off. My writing has improved, but barely. Reading is still very challenging and yet I do it daily. As for speaking? That depends on who I’m talking with and how I feel when I’m with them. I have new notes to play now. I’ve made my small contribution to the history of philosophy, often because of the caring heartbeats and ideas I’ve shared with others.

As fellow travellers in the balancing of our souls, humans can strive to maintain their artistic and scientific guardianship over truth, beauty and goodness. But nature is so much more than what humans can guard, name or define. As Gioia sings: ‘Music is always more than notes. It is made out of sounds. Confusing these two is not a small matter … music does not happen in the brain. Music takes place in the world … Songs still possess magic, even for those who have forgotten how to tap into it.’ Presto!

is professor of philosophy at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. She is the co-editor of the essay collection Philosophy and Film: Bridging Divides (2019) and a regular contributor to the American Philosophical Association blog, with an interview series on the philosophy of time.


Your experience of stage fright is also affected by 3 main things:

1. Genes

Genetics play a huge role in how strong your feelings of anxiety are in social situations. For instance, even though John Lennon performed on stage thousands of times, he was known for throwing up before going on stage for his live performances.

Some people are simply genetically wired to feel more scared when performing or speaking in public.

2. Level of task mastery

We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” The main benefit of practice is to increase your familiarity of a given task. As this familiarity increases, feelings of anxiety decrease, and have less of a negative impact on performance.

In other words, the anxiety you feel about speaking in public will be less, the more comfortable you feel with your presentation.

To support these findings, in 1982, a team of psychologists watched pool players play alone or in front of crowd. The study found that:

What this means is if you know your presentation inside out, it’s more likely that you’ll give an even better presentation in front of a large audience than when you rehearsed alone or in front of a friend.

3. Stakes

If you’re giving a presentation where your business is on the line or the whole nation is watching you speak, there’s an increased chance that your reputation could be massively damaged if you screw up.

As the stakes increase, there’s a chance your reputation could be completely ruined if you perform poorly, which triggers the release of more adrenaline, and can result in paralyzing fear and anxiety.

We’ve seen the effect of stakes on reputation in online communities as well. For example, many eBay sellers worry about their reputation a ton because it directly effects how much money they make. One piece of negative feedback can ruin an eBay seller’s profile and cause them to lose sales.

In fact, one study found that a good reputation for a seller on eBay added 7.6 percent to the sale price of their items.

Having a good reputation is important to protect but, this also leads to having a fear that one slip-up could ruin your reputation and cause the loss of future opportunities.


How to Be an Effective Communicator in 7 Easy Steps

Effective communication is an essential skill for achieving success in all areas of life, whether personal or professional. Communication skills breed confidence and optimism, two character traits that enable you to accomplish your goals. Some people find that communication comes naturally for others, it&rsquos more difficult. But if you fall into the latter category, you don&rsquot need a communication degree to make yourself heard&mdashor to get what you want and need. The challenge of how to be an effective communicator gets far easier when you follow these seven steps:

Identify Your Objectives
What do you hope to accomplish, either immediately or long term? What action or response from your audience will show that you have communicated successfully? Understanding your objectives will help shape your communication style and make you more effective.

Listen Actively
Communication isn&rsquot just about what you say. If you want people to listen to you, you need to listen to them. Don&rsquot get so focused on what you&rsquore saying that you miss their important comments, emotions, and reactions. Likewise, when others are speaking, listen and process what they&rsquore trying to communicate instead of planning your response. When everyone is actively involved, communication is far more effective.

Note Your Body Language
Communication involves not just the words you speak, but what your body is saying. Without realizing it, your body language can send a stronger message than your words. If you sit or stand with your shoulders hunched and your arms folded across your chest, you show that your guard is up and you&rsquore unwilling to have productive, two-way discussions. Alternatively, when you sit or stand up straight with your arms at your sides, or relax into a more casual pose, you project openness and a willingness to communicate&mdashbefore you&rsquove said a single word.

Know Your Audience
The same speech, conversation, or sales pitch won&rsquot succeed with every audience. Modify your language for each group so that you&rsquore not being condescending or speaking in a way in which your audience can&rsquot understand. Adjusting how and what you say to match your audience will improve your communication skills.

Pace Yourself
Pay attention to how quickly you&rsquore speaking and whether your audience appears to be processing what you&rsquore saying. Slow down if necessary, and vary the volume and rhythm of your speech to hold their attention. It&rsquos important to deliberately repeat important points a few times to make sure your listeners hear what you have to say.

Choose the Right Time
If you&rsquore planning to ask your boss for a raise, make sure he or she is in a receptive mood. If there&rsquos a big problem on the production line or your company has lost a big account, it&rsquos not the best time to bring up the subject. So, in general&mdashwhether you&rsquore planning to deliver good or bad news or simply presenting a new idea that requires energy and focus&mdashbe aware of your audience&rsquos mind-set. Timing is a big factor in successful communication.

Be Clear
Don&rsquot spend too much time setting up your idea or request. Communicate your needs and desires clearly. You&rsquoll not only avoid misunderstandings, you&rsquoll earn respect through your honesty and clarity and have a greater chance of accomplishing your goal.

By applying these tips and practicing often, you can master the skills and learn how to be an effective communicator. Great communicators choose their words well, understand their audience, and connect with them at the right time and place.

Explore Walden University's online BS in Communication degree and our full suite of communication degree programs for undergraduates and graduates. Get the help you need to continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.

Fill out the form and we will contact you to provide information about furthering your education.


How To Bypass The Critical Factor & Use Unconscious Symbolism

The mystique of hypnosis first began in its overt form meaning that subjects were fully aware that direct commands were being used to induce trance in an effort to hypnotize them.

The problem with this was that many people did not enter a state of hypnosis. Thus began the urban myth that it’s not possible for some people to be hypnotized.

Alternately, it would take hours of hypnotic relaxation suggestions to just get someone into a trance before any therapeutic work could be done. This was a very laborious task, and it was almost as if they ended up being bored into trance!

Even the late and great Milton Erickson would take hours and several sessions “training” his subjects to be good hypnotic subjects. To spend six to eight hours in hypnotic training was not unusual. And that was before any therapy began.

For this reason, covert hypnosis has become an extremely powerful tool for modern day hypnotists as you can induce trance in just a matter of minutes!

To learn the essential tips and tricks so you too can covertly help even the most resistant of subjects during hypnotherapy, keep reading…

Bypassing the Critical Factor

Bypassing the critical factor means moving your subject from their conscious mind into their unconscious mind. All hypnosis takes place at the unconscious level.

One way of looking at it is like this. There is a guardian at the gate between the conscious and unconscious mind – therefore, stealth is essential! If you can’t slip past the guardian unnoticed, you can’t enter the kingdom of the unconscious.

This is because the conscious mind is very limited in its horizons. Its job is to keep everything the same because it thinks that’s the only way it can keep you safe.

But according to neurological research, you can actually only process three or four pieces of information per second, which is not much at all!

So when your conscious mind is busy planning your life ideally it should turn the work over to the real go-getter – the unconscious.

But sometimes it thinks it’s the Big Cheese and stays hyper-vigilant to do anything but hand over control.

The unconscious mind, on the other hand, has been determined by neuroscience to be pretty much unlimited. It can take in billions of pieces of information per second. Which is quite impressive, when you think about it!

But what good is having this brilliant unlimited mind if you can’t get access to it? Enter the critical factor bypass!

Covert hypnosis is such a stealth agent that it easily sneaks past the “guardian at the gate” into the kingdom of “Hypnoland” to access all of your infinite potentials.

Check out the ten tips below to learn how…

1. The secret to successfully bypassing the critical factor every time is that you first capture all of your subject’s attention. Without full attention there is no getting past the guardian.

2. Be sure your H+ (your desire that your subject have a wonderful experience in hypnosis) is turned up full.

3. Go first. Make sure you’re in an open-eyed trance first, making it easier for your subject to follow you.

4. Once their full attention is on you, be sure you have a friendly but direct hypnotic gaze and engage them in chitchat. Maintain this eye contact.

5. Begin using covert hypnotic language to make them feel comfortable and to build rapport.

6. Begin adding in trance themes. For example, relaxation and comfort.

7. Use your hypnotic voice – a tone a little deeper and slower than your normal speaking voice.

8. Watch for trance signals such as pupil dilation, skin flushes, catalepsy, eyes wanting to close and breathing changes. When you see these happening, you’re past the critical factor!

9. DON’T start giving any hypnotic suggestions until you know you’re past the critical factor or the conscious mind will reject them! Remember – the conscious mind doesn’t like change it does everything in its power to keep the person status quo.

10. Once you’ve bypassed the critical factor, you’re home free and can start giving your hypnotic suggestions to an unconscious mind that will accept and act on them.

This entire process can happen in minutes. Your subject can be comfortable from the moment they enter your office and will slip into a trance without even being aware of when the hypnosis began.

Using Unconscious Symbolism

Guided visualizations have gained huge popularity in the self-improvement industry – but aren’t nearly as effective as their sales agents claim.

Some studies claim that only 20 to 25% of people tested had their brain neurology changed while listening to a guided visualization.

Why? In order for a symbol to have any effect on your unconscious mind, it has to be one that you’ve already got an emotional connection to.

If you listen to a lot of guided visualizations, they tell you to fill yourself with white or colored light. If you have no emotional connection to white or colored light, this will have no unconscious effect.

You can imagine the light and it might be interesting, but the unconscious is the realm of emotions and works off of associations.

If you listen to a guided visualization that tells you to take a path deep into a forest – and you’re afraid to enter forests because you think they’re full of dangerous animals – this can even bring up old emotional trauma.

Symbolism is the language of the unconscious mind and it’s a REALLY powerful tool for change!

So you DON’T want to be using symbolism that’s got negative connections in a subject’s mind.

How do you insure that you have the most powerful symbolic tools without triggering a negative reaction?

Covert hypnosis elicits and uses the symbols the person ALREADY has. Try doing the following to see how…

1. When having a conversation with a subject, ask them about a pleasant experience they’ve had in nature and have them describe it to you. Pay attention to at least three or four key elements that make the memory special for them.

For example: The calm lake, the smell of the sea, the feel of the sun on their face, the peace of the forest, the swaying of a tree in the wind.

2. Once you’ve elicited the symbols that make them feel good, you’re ready to use them as your induction.

Have them close their eyes and then revivify back to them everything they’ve told you – in their words. This is crucial – don’t substitute your own evaluation of the scene – feed it back to them exactly as they have.

For example, if your subject said they felt great when they were last in the mountains on a sunny day and saw this huge beautiful tree swaying in the wind, you could say:

“Close your eyes and take yourself to the place back to where that huge beautiful tree is swaying in the mountains.” Give them a little time to be in that experience before you go on. Let them remain with their eyes closed.

3. Then revivify other elements of what they said. This time you may say something like “It’s a beautiful sunny day, you’re just sitting there feeling great. Just sitting there feeling great.”

What will happen when you take them through several pleasant experiences is that the core elements will start to mix and a brand new scene will take its place – one that’s full with positive feelings.

4. From here you have many options. You can create a place of safety, or “sanctuary” that the person can return to again and again whenever they want this great feeling. This is perfect for a self-hypnotic stress release (which you can teach them).

You can also give suggestions to their unconscious mind that they will look around the scene and find something to help them solve the problem they came to you with. Or they will find an unexpected gift from their unconscious that will unfold something new in their life.

This process allows you as the hypnotherapist to use a subject’s symbolism powerfully so you can help them in many ways.

And one of the best things about covert conversational hypnosis is that you can receive feedback from your subject throughout the journey – without being afraid they’ll “pop” out of trance while talking.

As without feedback, how will you ever know what’s going on inside your subjects’s mind? Remember: hypnosis is a two-way street.


Rhythm on the brain, and why we can't stop dancing

Some of us can’t help moving to a beat. Credit: Shutterstock

Music and dance are far from idle pastimes. They are universal forms of expression and deeply rewarding activities that fulfil diverse social functions. Both feature in all the world's cultures and throughout history.

A common feature of music and dance is rhythmic movement, which is often timed with a regular pulse-like beat. But the human capacity for rhythm presents something of a puzzle.

Even though rhythmic coordination seems fundamental to human nature, people vary widely in ability. Some have the machine-like precision of Michael Jackson, others are closer to the case of "beat-deaf" Mathieu.

What are the underlying causes of these individual differences? By looking at the way the brain responds to rhythm, we can begin to understand why many of us can't help but to move to a beat.

Rhythm is a powerful force. It can regulate mood, ranging from the arousing effect of pounding war drums to the pacifying effect of gently rocking a baby. It can even induce altered states of consciousness, as in spiritual rituals and shamanic traditions involving trance.

Rhythm and music can also be used for therapeutic purposes in the rehabilitation of conditions characterised by motor impairment, such as stroke and Parkinson's disease.

Even more fundamentally, rhythmic skills displayed in the context of music and dance may have been essential to our evolution as a species.

In The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin mused that:

it appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.

Rhythmically coordinated body movements may function similarly to fuel sexual attraction by providing an "honest" signal (one that can't be faked) of an individual's health and fitness.

Outside the competitive arena of finding a mate, coordinating with others through music and dance facilitates social cohesion by promoting interpersonal bonding, trust, and cooperation.

These prosocial effects of music and dance may have contributed to the flourishing of human culture by preventing the disintegration of early societies into antisocial mobs.

Today, they remain potent enough to be relied on, even in maximum security prisons.

But if music and dancing are so universal, why are some people simply unable to hold a rhythm?

The key to answering this question lies in how the human brain locks onto rhythms in the external environment, and how this process of "neural entrainment" supports the coordination of body movements.

Sometimes we just have to move. Credit: Scott Robinson/Flickr, CC BY

Neural entrainment occurs when regular sensory input, like music with a clear beat, triggers periodic bursts of synchronised brain activity. This periodic activity can continue independently of external rhythmic input due to interactions between already excited neurons. It is as if they expect the sensory input to continue.

Entrainment can thus enhance processing of incoming information by allocating neural resources to the right place at the right time. When performing or dancing to music, entrainment allows the timing of upcoming beats to be predicted.

A recent study on individual differences in rhythmic skill identified relationships between the strength of neural entrainment and the capacity to synchronise movements with musical rhythms.

We measured entrainment to the underlying beat in two types of rhythm using electroencephalography (EEG), a technique where electrical signals reflecting neural activity are recorded via electrodes placed on the head.

One rhythm had a regular beat marked by periodically occurring sound onsets. The other was a relatively complex and jazzier "syncopated" rhythm in which sound onsets were not present on all beats: some were marked by silence.

Results indicated that the strength of neural entrainment was related to people's ability to move in synchrony with the beat. Individuals with strong neural responses were more accurate at tapping a finger in time with the beat of the two rhythms.

We also found individual differences in brain responses to the two rhythms. While some individuals showed a large difference between strength of entrainment for the regular rhythm versus the syncopated rhythm, others showed only a small difference.

In other words: some people required external physical stimulation to perceive the beat, whereas others were able to generate the beat internally.

Remarkably, people who were good at internally generating beats also performed well on a synchronisation task that required them to predict tempo changes in musical sequences.

So the capacity for internal beat generation turns out to be a reliable marker of rhythmic skill. This adds new meaning to Miles Davis' reported maxim that "in music, silence is more important than sound".

But we still don't know why individual differences in the strength of neural entrainment occur in the first place. They may reflect the efficiency of neural responses at early levels of auditory processing, such as brainstem responses. Or the degree of connectivity between higher-level auditory and motor cortical regions.

Another open question is whether rhythmic skills can be boosted by recent advances in neuroscience. Brain stimulation techniques that induce neural synchrony at specific frequencies provide a promising method for enhancing entrainment and thereby improving an individual's capacity for rhythm.

This story is published courtesy of The Conversation (under Creative Commons-Attribution/No derivatives).


Get A Copy


Why Prosody Matters: The Importance of Reading Aloud with Expression

Reading aloud with expressionis a foundational reading skill students should be developing between grades 1 - 5. It is pretty easy to recognize when someone skillfully reads aloud in an expressive manner. However, to effectively teach or assess this skill, a closer examination of its features, development, and relationship to other reading skills is needed.

What is Prosody?

Prosody, the defining feature of expressive reading, comprises all of the variables of timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation that speakers use to help convey aspects of meaning and to make their speech lively. One of the challenges of oral reading is adding back the prosodic cues that are largely absent from written language.

Why is Prosody Important?

Researchers have found strong links between oral reading prosody and general reading achievement. For example, after comparing students’ reading prosody in first and second grades with their reading comprehension at the end of third grade, Miller and Schwanenflugel (2008) concluded that, “early acquisition of an adult-like intonation contour predicted better comprehension.” Another study, which included more than 1,750 fourth graders participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), found a strong correlation between prosody and overall reading achievement (Daane, Campbell, Grigg, Goodman, & Oranje, 2005).

How Does Prosody Impact Reading Comprehension?

In the context of oral reading, prosody can reflect linguistic features, such as sentence structure, as well as text features, such as punctuation. Skilled readers pick up on these features, and respond to them when reading aloud, as when they pause briefly at relevant commas, pause slightly longer at sentence boundaries, raise their pitch at the end of yes-no questions, and lower their pitch at the end of declarative sentences.

While punctuation provides some cues to prosody, young readers can be misled by it. For instance, they may pause at every comma, even when the grammar of the sentence does not call for pausing (e.g., “He made his usual egg, cheese, and tomato sandwich.”). As young readers move toward adult proficiency, their pauses increasingly respect the grammar of the text rather than doggedly following the punctuation (Miller & Schwanenflugel, 2006).

Prosody can also reflect aspects of meaning. For instance, slight fluctuations in pitch, timing, and emphasis can change a simple question (e.g., “What did you do?”) into an expression of censure. Learning to read dialog in a manner that reflects the intentions and emotional states of the characters is a great way for adolescent readers to delve deeply into literature. However, younger students may not understand this use of prosody well enough to apply it to oral reading (Cutler & Swinney, 1987). Notably, in the NAEP study, only 10% of fourth graders were judged as reading aloud with this level of expressiveness.

Finally, when thinking about prosody, it is critical to remember the other aspects of reading fluency: word reading accuracy and reading rate. Inefficient word reading is the primary barrier to good prosody for most young readers (Schwanenflugel, Hamilton, Wisenbaker, Kuhn, & Stahl, 2004). Children who are struggling to decode individual words tend to pause too frequently and for too long, so that their timing and phrasing are seriously disrupted. Furthermore, they must put so much effort into decoding that they do not have the mental resources left for constructing meaning and conveying it expressively.

Providing Insight Into a Learner's Reading Ability

Listening to the prosody of a child reading aloud provides parents and educators with a window into many aspects of reading skill. By reading aloud with appropriate timing, phrasing, and end of sentence intonation, younger readers can demonstrate their ability to:

read at a reasonable rate

read most words automatically, so that mental resources are available for comprehension

use grammar and punctuation to help construct meaning

By reading aloud with increasingly adult-like intonation and expressiveness, adolescent readers can demonstrate their ability to:

use discourse-level features, such as pronouns and signal words, to recognize relationships across and among the sentences in a text

understand characters and their intentions when reading fiction

understand an author’s purpose or attitude.

Ultimately, all of these abilities must be brought to bear to achieve the ultimate goal of reading with comprehension.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2012). English Language Arts Standards – Reading: Foundational Skills (Grade 1 – Grade 5). National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO): Washington, DC.

Cutler, A. & Swinney, D. A. (1987). Prosody and the development of comprehension. Journal of Child Language, 14,145-167.

Daane, M.C., Campbell, J.R., Grigg, W.S., Goodman, M.J., and Oranje, A. (2005). Fourth-Grade Students Reading Aloud: NAEP 2002 Special Study of Oral Reading(NCES 2006-469). U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Schwanenflugel, P. J., Hamilton, A. M., Kuhn, M. R., Wisenbaker, J. M., & Stahl, S. A. (2004). Becoming a fluent reader: Reading skill and prosodic features in the oral reading of young readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 119–129.

2 comments on “Why Prosody Matters: The Importance of Reading Aloud with Expression”

This was very helpful. IM a grandma teaching homeschool language arts to an eleven-year -old. She doesn’t pause atsentence end when reading aloud. This has given me some ideas to help her!

Thanks for your comment, Connie! Best wishes as you try out some new techniques with your granddaughter!