Samermit and colleagues have determined that pairing disliked sounds (such as “nails scratching a chalkboard”) with videos presenting a more positive explanation for that sound (such as “someone playing a flute”) reduces the negative implications of hearing those sounds. They report that “We propose that cross-sensory stimuli presenting a positive attributable source of an aversive sound can modulate negative reactions to the sound.” The researchers utilized “original video sources (OVS) of eight aversive sounds (e.g., nails scratching a chalkboard) . . . .[and] positive attributable video sources (PAVS) of those same sounds (e.g., someone playing a flute)” as well as sound only recordings of the aversive sounds. The researchers determined that “compared to the sounds alone . . . concurrent presentation of PAVS videos significantly reduced negative reactions to the sounds, and the concurrent presentation of OVS videos significantly increased negative reactions. . . . Our results provide novel evidence that negative reactions to aversive sounds can be modulated through cross-sensory temporal syncing with a positive attributable video source.” Study participants rated the sounds, when they were presented with the videos and without the videos, on discomfort and unpleasantness, for example.
Patrawat Samermit, Jeremy Saal, and Nicolas Davidenko. 2019. “Cross-Sensory Stimuli Modulate Reactions to Aversive Sounds.” Multisensory Research, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 197-213, https://doi.org/10.1163/22134808-2019134