Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices

By Anthony Gold

What would you say if I told you that I can make you clearly hear something that was never spoken? Prepare to have your senses blown.

The phenomenon I’m about to describe was first detailed by two cognitive psychologists at the University of Surrey in England – when they accidentally stumbled on it in 1976 while studying how infants perceive language.

It’s called the McGurk Effect (named after the lead researcher) and it works like this. A video shows a person’s face and you hear the person uttering the sounds ba ba ba. Like the sound of a sheep – bah – repeated three times, over and over. There is no confusion about what the sound is – it is perfectly clear. Ba ba ba, ba ba ba, ba ba ba.

Then, the person changes their mouth as if they are articulating the sounds fa fa fa. I say as if because the audio hasn’t changed – it is the same ba ba ba audio, but the mouth is moving as if the person were pronouncing fa fa fa.

What do you think you will hear?

Mostly likely, you think you will still hear ba ba ba since that is exactly what the audio contains. However, you won’t. You will be tricked into hearing fa fa fa.

I know you don’t believe me. So, let’s try it. Watch the three-minute BBC video below.

OK, so did you hear fa fa fa? Of course you did. I told you that you would be deceived, I explained exactly how it would work, and yet you were still fooled. We all are. We can’t help it – our senses, in this particular case, were made to be misled.

Similarly, A Course in Miracles points out that we are deceived not only by what we hear, but by everything we see. Everything.

The world you see is an illusion. It is not there at all. (C-4.1; T-20.III.5)

Certainly the course is not the first to make such insights. Buddhism clearly defined this understanding nearly twenty-five hundred years ago. The same with Hinduism nearly four-thousand years ago. Even quantum physics is beginning to light upon a truth far deeper than imagined, hardly escaping the witty insights of one of history’s greatest geniuses:

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. –Albert Einstein

Why is it that we can be so easily fooled into believing a reality that isn’t true? And what is the purpose behind such deception? Join us in Monday’s class where we will explore these concepts as well how we can practice a different way of seeing – one which leads to clear hearing and true sight. I look forward to seeing you then.

2 thoughts on “Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices

  1. I am so enjoying your insights into the Course In Miracles. They’re so clear and wise and even entertaining. I am puzzled, though, that each entry ends with an invitation to “join us in Monday’s class.” Where is this Monday class taking place? Again, thanks for these posts.

  2. Hi Cliff,
    Thank you for your message and the kind words. Great catch on the “join us on Monday” phrase … that is totally my oversight. Each week (Monday evening, eastern), we host a study group to discuss the essay theme. We have people join in-person as well as remote (via Skype). People who are signed-up for the email list on this site receive the essay in their email which also includes information for the meeting details. But you are right that folks who just read the post and are not on the email list would be left wondering “what is this?”

    To that end, I added a new tab to the site called Study Group that contains the details of our Monday study group meeting. And in the future, I will link the “join us on Monday” text to that page.

    Thanks again for catching this.


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