Just What The Hell Is Going On In This Latest Viral Audio Illusion?

James Felton 18 May 2018, 16:38

The Laurel or Yanny debate has now escalated so much that even the White House felt like they needed to get involved.

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Spoiler alert: Donald Trump thinks that the voice says "covfefe" rather than, for instance:

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Before even a day had passed, a much stranger audio illusion went even more viral than Laurel and Yanny. And it will seriously mess with your brain.

If you listen to this video whilst thinking of the word "brainstorm", that is what you will hear. But if you think of the phrase "green needle", you will hear these words instead. To really confuse your brain, listen to it again and think of a different phrase.

If you're having trouble, try looking at one of the phrases whilst you listen to the audio. 

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Freaking your noggin? Now go back and try the phrases "brain needle" and "green storm".

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So, what is happening here?

Unlike the Yanny debacle, it's unlikely to be to do with frequency or pitch. People are able to hear both phrases depending on what they're focusing on at the time, whereas with Yanny and Laurel people were generally only able to hear one version, until the pitch of the audio was shifted.

It's more likely that this effect is a form of the McGurk effect.

The McGurk effect, shown in this video from the BBC's Horizon program, is a phenomenon where your brain can be tricked into hearing different things based on the visual information you are perceiving at the time.

In this case, you won't be able to tell whether you're hearing "baa" or "faa" because of the way the man's mouth is moving. What you see can override what you hear.

In terms of "brainstorm" vs "green needle", the sound information is simply overridden not by what you're seeing at the time, but by what you're expecting to hear. If you listen to it fresh, without seeing any of the alternatives beforehand, you will likely hear what it actually says. 

So what should you be hearing?

The word that the toy is actually saying is "brainstorm". The toy is a Ben 10 crab monster that regularly uses the phrase as it shoots mind powers out of its cartoon skull.

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