Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Ooh, I just had a McGurk moment

I'm currently reading for review Brain Bugs (my fingers wanted to type Brian Bugs, hmm) by Dean Buonomano. (I'll link to the review when it's available.) This is an exploration of the human brain, using the things it gets wrong as a way of understanding it better.

On mental glitch it mentions is the McGurk effect. This is well known, so you may have come across it already, but if you haven't, it's a great one. What it demonstrates is the way that the brain's processing of sensory information can result in us receiving a false impression of what's going on.

Take a look at the video below. It's important you have the sound on, as I want you to see what the guy says.



Now replay the video, but this time, close your eyes as soon as you click the replay button and listen the sound of the whole clip without the picture.

It's exactly the same video, and exactly the same sound 'Ba ba, ba ba, ba ba.' But when your eyes see the lips forming the 'Da da' sound, your brain gives more weight to your eyes than your ears and translates the electrical impulses from your ears as 'Da da' instead of 'Ba ba.' Try it watching the video again. You can't force yourself to hear 'Ba ba' even though you know that's what he is saying.

Yet another excellent example of the way our senses don't provide us with a video camera like snapshot of what is out there, but rather the brain's interpretation of what it thinks is happening. Excellent!

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