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Why notification sounds send you emotionally reeling into the past.

May 11, 2019 / RACHEL KRAUS

It sounds like someone accidentally hit adjacent keys on a xylophone. The understated double ping hits me with a jolt of excitement, a swooping stomach, and even a bit of relief.

Whenever I hear the now-retired Facebook Messenger notification, I'm transported back to 2013, when I happily, gratefully, giddily got a message from someone I liked, who would later become my partner. Back then, we talked almost daily on, of all chat platforms, Messenger.

As devices, software applications, and apps become omnipresent, the User Interface (UI) sounds they emit — the pings, bings, and blongs vying for our attention — have also started to contribute to the sonic fabric of our lives. And just as a song has the power to take you back to a particular moment in time, the sounds emitted by our connected devices can trigger memories, thoughts, and feelings, too.

"The sounds that we have are adding to that tapestry," Will Littlejohn,...

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