By Kota Kamemura

Your literature review is based on data and information that other people have gathered in their own research studies. In the literature review, you should aim to pick up critical information from all of the resources you have read. Although this means you have to gather a lot of information, you cannot write about all of it, so, you need to screen what information is useful to include in your thesis. Therefore, as a process, first of all, you should gather lots of RELIABLE information. Second of all, you should find and write down ONLY IMPORTANT information from every resource. Finally, you should screen which information is the MOST IMPORTANT to your thesis. Below, I have written a summarised version of the literature review from my thesis on silence in daily life (the full version is almost 2800 words) to give you an idea of what content goes into a literature review, how to organise it, and crucially – don’t just describe what information you have read, you also need to include your critical evaluation of what you have learnt.

Introduction

Silence is a normal thing for people. It is nothing special, just a soundless situation. However, that is not just it because silence has some works and effects which are good for people and make their lives brilliant. Despite this fact, silence tends to be ignored as if it exists without any meaning.
Additionally, the word “silence” is vague because there are various kinds of silence existing in several situations. And the word includes all of them.

Here are some examples of silence:

  • Silence in a conversation/communication as pauses
  • Silence in music as rests and breaks
  • Silence in arts (films and paintings) as silence itself

Silence can help people to improve their communication skills and to enhance music and arts by letting people think. Additionally, silence has medical effects on human bodies. Conversely, non-silent situation, the noisy situation has medically bad effects. Obviously, silence is one of the necessary functions in life, even though it is not much aware of by people.

Silence in daily life situations

Silence can be in every situation and be good and bad, depending on the situations.

1. Hospitals are one example of where silence is appreciated. 

“In recent years researchers have highlighted the peculiar power of silence to calm our bodies, turn up the volume on our inner thought, and attune our connection to the world”. Gross (2014)
“People who live in consistently loud environments often experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones”. Gross (2014)

Stress can delay patients’ recovering. On the other hand, silence can calm bodies. Because of these facts, hospitals are supposed to be silent or close to being silent.

2. Stores are one of the examples of where silence is not appreciated.

According to Nell (2013), music has the ability to help to create an atmosphere, and the atmosphere created by music and music itself attract customers and guide them.
For example, music played in women’s wear, and music played in children’s wear area must be different because they need to create distinguished atmospheres from one another. The differences can guide customers to a certain area because they naturally know the tendency of music played in areas, Therefore, if a store is completely silent, that makes it difficult for customers to get to an area they would like to go to.

Silence in conversations, communication

Silence is essential to structure communication and to build relationships, especially in current society in which connections with others are one of the most important things.

Such silence not only structures communication but―as an integral part of the cultural framework of a speech community―also serves to organise its social relationships” (Tannen and Saville-Trolke, 1985).

Also, people biologically need 0,45 seconds at least to interpret things, therefore talking without more than 0,45 seconds is less effective. This suggests that people should introduce a pause in a conversation when telling something important.

In addition, Smith (2014) suggested three benefits that silence in communication can bring people.

  • It helps to communicate well because people tend to talk too much, then important points are missed.
  • It helps to focus on what a partner in a conversation says and interpret it better.
  • It helps to reach solutions faster because people can focus on anything easily.

The common thing the three benefits have is “concentration”. Silence can give you concentration not to miss points, to understand what others say and to reach solutions.

Silence in music

Music is made of sounds; therefore, people could think music and silence are the opposites to each other. However, music is made of silence which is called “Break” or “Rest” as well.
Alain (2016), who is a violinist and a singer, said “At the moment of silence, music still continues” and “Rests create rhythm and reform to music”.
Silence, rest is an essential part of music to structure it. Also, silence is one way for musicians and interpreters to show their uniqueness and creativity.

Figure 1: How rests are written in scores (Wikipedia)

Another silence in music is a break. A break is an instrumental or percussion section during a song derived from or related to stop-time (Wikipedia). Actually, the brake is not completely silent; however, it makes instruments outstanding by that other instruments become silent. This technic is often utilised by musicians, for arranging songs.

Also, there are some benefits silence has
“When noises stop, for instance, silence gives us an enjoyable sense of relief; in a dialogue a suspend word conveys to us as a sense of expectation; within a melody silence is part of the music, enhancing it, punctuating it” (Haertel, 1985).


Silence lets the audience enjoy and expect music. That can enhance music indirectly.
“Silences have a purpose in music―they help to distinguish different sections of the score, they allow listeners to shift their attention from one syntactic unit to the next (Knosche et al., 2004), and they help us lay down memory for the tune” (Music Psychology, 2011).


Silence distinguish different sections. Thanks to that, the audience can easily shift to the next section. To summarise the benefits and reasons for using silence in music,

  • Musicians can express their uniqueness and creativity. 
  • Musicians can arrange songs. 
  • Audiences can expect what is going to happen next during silence.
  • Audiences can understand the beginning and end of music easily and shift to the next part.

These, directly and indirectly, enhance music by helping musicians and audiences both.

Silence in films

Silence in films actually work in the same way as in silence. It can let people expect what is happening now and next. The expectation has a huge impact on them.

 “The human imagination paints a more incredible picture of events than could ever be achieved by the pyrotechnics of contemporary film wizardry” (Green, 1995-96).

This is to say, human imagination is more effective than the tricks and techniques used to attract people in films. This is because when people hear nothing, they tend to pay much more attention to visual information. For example, this technique of silence is used in horror movies. During or after a silent scene, letting a scary thing show up suddenly is much more effective than ones in a normal scene with sounds. Therefore, silence tends to be used when directors need them to see something visual.

To summarise the benefits and reasons for using silence in films,

  • People can expect what is happening now and next.
  • Human imagination is much more effective than tricks.
  • Directors can make people only focus on anything visual.

By giving human’ brain time and space to think, films can be impressive and vivid.

Silence in paintings

Paintings are not aural media. Therefore, it can be said that paintings are completely silent media that tell people something without any sounds. In addition, silence creates a unique strange tension to them. There is something that only silence can bring.
“The suggestion of sound in a silent medium like painting creates an uncanny tension between the viewer’s expectation and the medium’s limitations” (Green, 1995-96).
Picasso’s Guernica (1973) is a good example. It is a world-famous large oil painting on canvas by Spanish in June 1937 (Wikipedia).

Figure 2: Guernica by Pablo Picasso(1881-1973) (Wikipedia) 

In the painting, some characters and things are drawn. For instance, a screaming horse occupying the central panel, two females staring at something and a cow with only its head on the left side are there. People have to understand what the characters and the painting itself mean. Each people have their own imagination so that they can have different opinions and views to paintings. This is a way to enjoy paintings.

To summarise this part,

  • Paintings are completely silent media.
  • Silence can create an uncanny tension between viewers and media.
  • People have to interpret the theme by themselves with no audio clue. 
  • People can have different views and opinions.

Silence to human bodies

As mentioned already, silence can medically affect human bodies.

 “Later research by a Duke University regenerative biologist, Imke Kirste, discovered that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory, involving the sense” (ReShel, 2018).

“Researchers found that silence helps new cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system and that when we experience silence, our brains are able to work at better understanding our internal and external environments.” (ReShel, 2018).

The studies show the fact that people need silence for their memorising and interpreting ability and their own body system such as cells and neurons and brains, which are all essential to them.

“In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) examined and quantified its health burden in Europe. It concluded that the 340 million residents of Western Europe (about the population of the United States), were losing a million years of healthy life every year, due to noise. WHO also said that the root cause of 3,000 heart disease was due to excessive noise” (ReShel, 2018).

“Children exposed to noise developed a stress response which actually caused them to ignore the noise” and “the children ignored both the harmful noise of the airport, along with other more everyday noises, such as speech” (ReShel, 2018).

“Noise makes us lose our concentration, cognitive powers and causes decreased motivation and brain functioning (as backed up by research into the effects of noise,) but studies show that spending time in silence can amazingly restore what was lost through exposure to excessive noise” (ReShel, 2018).

It is obvious that excessive noise is harmful to human because it can cause heart disease and let them ignore the noise itself and other sounds which might be necessary. In communication, concentration and cognitive ability are really important because communication does not work without them. However, spending time in silence can restore what was taken away by noise.

To summarise examples of noise’s effects on the human body

  • Excessive noise cause heart disease 
  • Excessive noise can develop a stress response, which let them ignore it and other sounds.
  • Excessive noise can let people lose their concentration and cognitive power.

Here are examples of silence’s effects on the human body

  • Silence prompts cell development in the hippocampus.
  • Silence helps new cells to differentiate into neurons. 
  • Silence can restore what was lost through exposure to excessive noise.

Summary

Based on the facts mentioned, silence works and help people in several ways, which are

  • Making communication better by giving people time and space to think and interpret 
  • Enhancing arts better by letting people imagine and expect
  • Keeping brains healthy such as by prompting cell development

If people know this, this is very useful and worth knowing. But it is often something that people are not aware of. That could make life more meaningful and better because of the current society getting noisy. The examples mentioned here are not all of the works silence has. 

References

Alain, S (2016, October 21). Meaningful Silence | Sarah Alain| TEDxUTokyo. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBiGx-J_gQk

Green. J. (1995-96). The Paradox of Silence in the Arts and Religion. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjV1_rVpKTfAhWGgrwKHQYwDM0QFjABegQICRAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbyustudies.byu.edu%2Fcontent%2Fparadox-silence-arts-a nd-religion&usg=AOvVaw3y9d539o4ZZXa5LBAEwTjI

Gross, D. (2014, August 21). This is Your Brain on Silence. Retrieved from http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/this-is-yiur-brain-on-silence

Haertel, N (1985). THE MAGIC OF SILENCE IN THE VISUAL ARTS. Retrieved from

Nell, C. (2013, February). Exploring the influence of store atmospherics on consumers’  buying behaviour in apparel retail stores: An exploratory study in Tshwane. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/43172980.pdf

ReShel, A. (2018, May 9). Science Says Silence is Vital for Our Brains. Retrieved from https://upliftconnect.com/science-says-silence-is-vital-for-our-brains/

Smith, K. (2014, October 6). Silence: The Secret Communication Tool. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/silence-the-secret-communication-tool/

Tannen, D. & Saville-troike, M. (1985). Perspectives on Silence. Westport: Praegar

The music of silence (2011, April 2). Music Psychology. Retrieved from http://musicpsychology.co.uk/the-music-of-silence/

Wikipedia. Break(music). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Break_(music)

Wikipedia. Guernica(Picasso). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica

_(Picasso)