The McGurk Effect

The McGurk Effect October 6, 2011

Rich Shipe, longtime reader and commenter on this blog, referred to this video in a chapel message that he gave, making the point that our perceptions often fall far short of the truth.   I had to show it to all of you.  (As you watch, try shutting your eyes and notice how the “fa’s” turn back to “ba’s.”)

The point seems to be that when what we see conflicts with what we hear, our brain goes with what we see.  Can you think of applications of this principle?

UPDATE:  Some of you, as is evident from the comments, are not getting this at all.  The speaker is not making the “b” sound when his teeth touch his lips.  That would be impossible.  The same “b” sound is being played throughout.  It’s just that when we see his teeth touch his lips, our brain makes us hear the “f” sound even though the sound being played is “b.”

[Some remedial linguistics:  The “b” sound is a “voiced bilabial plosive,” referring to air popping out of the two lips with the vocal cords in your neck buzzing.  The “f” sound is an “unvoiced labial dental fricative,” meaning it’s made by the teeth (“dental”) touching one lip (“labial”), with air coming out through the closure in a form of friction.  “Unvoiced” means the vocal cords are not engaged.  When they ARE engaged and buzzing–feel your Adam’s apple, that’s your vocal cords–you get the voiced labial dental fricative; that is a “v” sound, what tODD thinks he heard, which is legitimate, but it also confirms the effect.)  This physiology is complicated, and yet apparently our brains pick up these distinctions visually!]

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