Binding is a term neuroscience uses for the brain’s ability to construct a reality out of separate occurrences. As we all know, light travels really fast, sound travels merely fast, and arms move downright slowly. So, when one plays baseball, for example, the brain will bind events together so that it appears as if what the eyes see, what the ears hear, and what the hands do, happen at the same time. The brain does this by delaying events, and thereby gaining the time needed to create the illusion that all of the things that come together when hitting a baseball – seeing, hearing, and touching – happen at the same time.
There is a fun experiment that was devised to study this. Participants sat in front of a button, that was connected to a light bulb. The wiring from the button went through a timing apparatus that controlled the exact time when the bulb lit up, in the millisecond range. Push the button… light goes on. Next, a time delay was introduced. The participant pushed the button, but there was a 20 millisecond delay until then the blulb lit up. Apparently the brain will continue to assume that the bulb simply has to light up when the button is pushed and will bind those events together. This can be pushed until the delay is about 200 milliseconds, which is a fifth of a second. Here is where the fun started: once the participant had been “trained” to experience the bulb lighting up when the button was pushed EVEN THOUGH a fifth of a second elapsed between the events, the delay was removed and the bulb lit up without delay. Now the participants experienced something interesting: they reported that they saw the bulb lighting up BEFORE they pushed the button!
I have been thinking about this all day, wondering how it relates to playing guitar. When I sit on a stage and play a note, the sound travels from the guitar to the microphone and then, in form of an electrical impulse, through 100-200 feet (and sometimes a lot more than that) of wiring to the front-of-house mixing position, then, after processing, another 100-200 feet in the opposite direction to amps that increase the signal and send an impulse to the loudspeakers, which then have to move the air, which has to travel to your ears… It is clear that a concert is basically a group hallucination. LOL