The Consequence of Sound

halented profile image Hal Dunn ・3 min read

Sound is powerful. With no prior training, sound can make you happy, or angry, or calm at the drop of a note. Certain sounds can make you go insane, or hallucinate. Often we go through the day thoughtlessly experiencing sound, or allowing others in our lives to control what we hear and when. This doesn’t have to be the case!

There are many, many ways that you can latch onto the power of sound and make your life more pleasant, and your day ore productive. Two of the phenoms that always come to mind for me (and which I find incredibly useful) involve using sound with state-dependent memory and classical (or Pavlovian) conditioning.

State-dependent memory was first tested in 1937 in Illinois, where Edward Girden and Elmer Culler discovered that dogs who were in the same “state of consciousness” while learning a particular trick were much less likely to remember the trick if their state of consciousness was altered. In this case, the dogs were high.

this cupcake, man

Altering a “state of consciousness” can have a lot of different meanings. It can mean transitioning from sleeping to awakening, from sobriety to inebriation, from relaxed to alert, or, in our case, just listening to a really excellent song. Music and sound have the power to affect your state of consciousness as quickly as any other drug might.

In application, this means that if you turn on the same particular ocean noise while you are learning to code javascript, you will be much more likely to remember javascript down the line if you turn that ocean noise back on while you’re doing it. It’s an interesting and effective way to categorize your skillset and “hack” your brain into the right groove at the right time.

State-depending memory and classical conditioning go hand in hand. If state-dependent learning is a mental hack, classical conditioning is its physical counterpart. As we’re all familiar with, classical conditioning was popularized by that one guy, also with the dogs. Pavlov’s work really took off when he noticed the fact that dogs cannot consciously drool on command, and yet, they could be trained to do so. In the same way, you can’t always wake up motivated and ready to work. But if you keep an awareness of when you are feeling most motivated and always play a particular noise, you can eventually train your body into productivity as a reaction to that noise.

It’s important to note that in practice, it’s easy to accidentally get this training cycle reversed. If you turn consistently turn on a noise and tell yourself to “be productive, damnit!” then you are actually going to train yourself into dreading or disliking that noise. So try to avoid that one. No personal experience there or anything. 🙄

With all that said, here are some of my favorite noise-based resources that I highly recommend:




Purrli (This one is a cat)

And you can actually skip all of those, because here is the best website on the internet:


MyNoise offers a basic rain noise out the gate that you really don’t have to mess with if you just need to blank out external sounds, but beyond that, it is a truly dynamic, user-friendly, simple, brilliant website. You can save sound settings to a URL, download sounds, publish sounds, check out other user’s published settings, turn it on with Alexa, Spotify, Google Play, and other music services. There is also an app for android and iPhone. The whole project was created and is owned by Dr. Stéphane Pigeon, an engineer, programmer, and sound designer who can be found on on his website here.


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