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5 auditory illusions that’ll freak you out even more than Laurel and Yanny

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Harvey Day
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5 auditory illusions that’ll freak you out even more than Laurel and Yanny

Bored of ‘Laurel vs Yanny’ but want more cool sound illusions? We’ve got you covered

It split brother from brother, friend from friend and left entire households forever divided. I am of course talking about the great ‘Laurel vs Yanny’ debate.

No-one could agree on what the strange audio clip of a computer-generated voice, which first appeared on Reddit, was saying. But scientists weighed in with some compelling explanations.

And if you just can’t get enough of these freaky auditory illusions, here’s five more – along with a handy explanation. Oh, and all of these work best with headphones.

1. The McGurk effect

This phenomenon exploits what we see to affect what we hear. In this video, it looks/sounds like the man is saying “ba” then “va” then “da” because of how he’s moving his mouth. But when you close your eyes and listen again, you’ll realise it’s the same sound each time. What witchcraft is this?!

2. The virtual barbershop

Like one of those virtual theme park rides or a haunted house, this illusion demonstrates our ability to locate sound in space. By feeding in different sounds to each ear, this video really makes you feel like you’re in a barbershop. For the best results, close your eyes.

3. Phantom Bee Gees

Though a little clunky, if you listen to this video it very much sounds like you can hear the words to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. But, in fact, it’s just a bunch of synthesised piano notes.

This illusion works because your brain has heard the real song before so seeks out the pattern of the lyrics in the synthesised version. Pretty cool.

4. Binaural beats

A binaural beat is an illusion that’s produced when two different tones are played separately into each ear. Rather than creating a beat before it reaches your ear, you’re in fact hearing the beat because of the frequencies interacting with your brain. Lift up one of your headphones while listening to this video to prove it. 

5. Choose your own words

This illusion exploits the concept of pareidolia – a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus by perceiving a familiar pattern where there isn’t one there at all.

In this example, you’ll hear distinct words even though the noise being played is gibberish. 

(Image: Getty)