The Shepard Tone, named after psychologist Roger Shepard, consists of scales stacked on atop another and repeated, creating a seemingly never-ending “barber pole of sound.” Shepard tones have been used to great effect in everything from Super Mario video games to Pink Floyd albums, and are a particular favorite of film director Christopher Nolan, as a method of creating rising tension in the viewer. The video below explains how this audio illusion works.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


2 Thoughts on "Design Matters: How an Audio Illusion Adds Tension"

Porting the Shepard tone over to the realm of academic publishing is interesting: Work simultaneously on several lines of research.
A few pioneering lines – the low range of the scale – that create marginal attention as they have not been “picked up” by the majority of potentially interested readers yet (rumbling frequency).
One mainstream one, the middle range. It started as one of the pioneering ones in the past, and has now gathered personal and peer momentum. The number of publications is sustained throughout the rest of the three years that influence the impact factor of journals.
A noisy one, the high range of the scale (rambling frequency: many words little content). Laggers have picked up the trend and me too papers crowd the field. The interests fizzles out. Personal interest is now on what used to be the most interesting pioneering line of research.
If it all works out and the editors, your productivity and your health accommodate your exhausting publication strategy, you might just have created the perfect Shepard effect.

Fridays aren’t usually my best day for learning something new, but that was fun and interesting. Thanks, David!

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