the McGurk effect

On my other blog, I posted a video of a French street performer. I think it's a funny video in and of itself, but I also put English subtitles on it. You can be the judge of whether this makes it more or less funny than before.

I find the effect of the subtitles strangely robust. I don't speak French, but my wife does, and when she watches the clip she says that, ever since she saw the subtitles, she has to concentrate pretty hard to hear the original French. It is like a variation on the McGurk effect. If you watch someone's lips while they are saying "Da", and you listen to someone saying "Ba" at the same time, you will hear something closer to "Ga". This illusion is called the McGurk effect.

In this case, you aren't necessarily watching the mouth of the speaker, but you are reading words that prime you to hear certain sounds more than others. The way I like to think of it (which may be wrong, but I don't have time to study the latest theories right now): the subtitles start to fire up certain nodes in the language networks, and this activity acts as a selective filter for the incoming auditory stimulation.

Link to demonstration of the McGurk effect.

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