Blog Post

Reverse Speech is a Pseudo-Science

16664145 - analog stereo open reel tape deck recorderJC asks: “Is reverse speech theory in any way scientific?

No. Reverse speech is a pseudo-science that lacks any credibility.

For those who have never heard of it, the theory of reverse speech posits that when human speaks, they are subconsciously producing hidden messages in their speech that can only be heard when recorded and played backward. These backward messages supposedly give insight into the innermost thoughts of the speaker.

The idea was coined by an Australian named David John Oates who was born to a Methodist minister in rural Australia in 1955. His favorite hobby growing up was electronics and by the time he was a teenager he was building amplifiers for this small rock ‘n roll band. He never graduated high school but dropped out to become an insurance clerk. In his spare time, he was involved with church youth groups and working for drop-in centers for street kids. He eventually left insurance work and devoted himself full time to street kids.

Apparently, he discovered reverse messaging by accident. It happened one day when he dropped a tape recorder in the toilet while shaving. Even though he fixed the recorder, from that time on it would only play in reverse. Not long after this, teens came to ask him about backward messages from Satan in rock music. He pulled out his half-broken recorder and played the tapes backward for them while searching for these messages. Not only did he find these hidden messages, but he found them in every form of spoken communication that uses words.

For the next 12 years he worked at uncovering the secret of reverse speech which he claims is a “form of human communication that is automatically generated by the human brain. It occurs every time we speak and is imbedded backwards into the sounds of our speech. This previously undiscovered function of the mind is the mind's own independant [sic] voice speaking from the deepest regions of consciousness ... forward speech is from the left brain and Reverse Speech is from the right brain.”

So what proof do we have about any of this?


But that hasn’t stopped Oates from cashing in on his theories which he now teaches online, through books, and weekend courses. He also sells other resources such as reverse speech software. There’s even a new app, the iReverseSpeech app, which is designed to record and analyze audio in order to find hidden messages. His website even goes so far as to call his discovery of reverse speech of “Nobel caliber” in spite of the fact that there is no science to back up any of his claims.

This writer listened to one example of reverse speech on Youtube and found it to be nothing but gibberish. Even when a voiceover states what the speaker is supposedly saying backward, it still doesn’t sound anything like the interpretation.

However, there is such a thing as backmasking, which is a process that uses a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track and is meant to be played forward. It was popularized by the Beatles and is thought to have been used to convey Satanic messages in some rock music. However, backmasking is a deliberate process whereas reverse speech is supposedly innate.

In spite of this total lack of scientific credibility, Oates’ organization claims that reverse speech can be used in police investigation work, business negotiations and in therapeutic situations. They claim a mere half hour session can reveal reasons and causes for certain behaviors and even health issues.

Needless to say, the best thing to do with reverse speech is to hit the eject button.

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