An artist recently made an animated gif but what they did not realize is that their creation would spark a scientific mystery and get the internet buzzing.
CAN YOU HEAR THIS SILENT GIF? IF YOU CAN YOU ARE SPECIAL
The gif shows electricity pylons playing skipping, and there is no sound or music attached to it. Two are turning the “rope” while another one jumps over it.
What is strange about the silent gif is that many people have said that they can hear a thud noise or a boing noise as the pylon skipping hits the ground.
Dr. Lisa DeBruine, a psychology researcher, took to Twitter and asked users if they could hear any sound when watching the gif.
Around 70% of people who answered said that they could hear a thump sound or boing when the pylon in the middle hits the ground and they see it shake. Only 18% said that they heard nothing, 3% said they heard something else, and 9% said that they only wanted to find out the results.
Anyone who can hear a noise when watching the soundless animated gif has the McGurk effect to thank for it. This is a phenomenon that happens when audio from a sound is paired alongside visuals of another sound, and then the ear picks up a different result. In short, what people see alters what they hear.
One example of this would be a video that had a clip of a man saying the word baa, and this was paired with video of the man saying faa, people would hear faa instead of baa. The animation of the pylons enjoying a game of skipping takes the phenomenon one step further.
In the animation, there is no sound. However, the visual stimulus happens to be enough for some people to think that they can hear a sound. In this case, the pylon thudding to the ground after jumping the rope. The same effect was seen during a study in which 22% of people thought that they could hear sounds faintly when they were shown a flash of light.
What is surprising is that this suggests that more people can hear movement than the 5% estimated of the population with synesthesia. This is a condition where a sound, in this case, sound, is thought of as one or more other senses, in this instance, sight. Correlated neuronal activity is when the brain of the person is expecting something, or it is predicting something.
The brain then fires off the sense that corresponds. In the case of the pylons playing skipping, people expect to hear a thud noise when the ground shakes as the pylon lands back down after jumping. The gif artists said that the reason why people think they can hear the thump or thud is due to the shake in the picture, not the pylon actually jumping and hitting the ground.
They went on to say that the pylons could be taken out of the gif image and the ground just shakes, and people would still hear the thud. The pylons are only in the picture to give it some height.
Can you hear a thud or bang sound when the pylon hits the ground? If so it is only your brain playing tricks on you.