The brain can be a funny thing.
Aside from making me write the understatement of the year, it can also play weird little tricks on you.
There are a whole host of clever images out there designed to trick your brain into thinking one thing, when actually the image shows another. And then there are the things that are just unintentionally confusing yet will spark huge debates, such as the infamous gold or blue dress, or last year’s Yanny or Laurel debacle.
Here are some other brain-teasing examples for you:
And the classic rabbit or duck head-scratcher:
One piece of auditory illusion which has been doing the rounds again recently is the jumping pylon gif. You know the one – everyone’s favourite playful pylons skipping about and making the ground shake. Don’t tell me you don’t know it!
Anyway here it is:
Does anyone in visual perception know why you can hear this gif? pic.twitter.com/mcT22Lzfkp
— Lisa DeBruine 🏳️🌈 (@LisaDeBruine) December 2, 2017
Do you hear it?
If you do, you’re not alone, in fact you’re in the majority, as it turns out around 70 per cent of people fall for this strange auditory illusion.
Dr Lisa DeBruine, from the University of Glasgow, conducted a quick poll regarding the gif originally posted on Twitter by @IAmHappyToast in 2014. Over 310,000 people responded to it, of which around 70 per cent said they could hear something in it, despite the clip being completely silent.
It’s not just gifs of jumping pylons that can make us hear thudding sounds though.
I started out with thudding, but now alternate with a comical “sproing”. pic.twitter.com/Hjr23NZdO6
— Kevin Boyd (@Beryllium9) December 3, 2017
In a study called Sounds from seeing silent motion: Who hears them, and what looks loudest?, researchers C. Fassridge and E.D. Freeman investigated the ‘visual-evoked auditory response’ (vEAR) in people who claim to sometimes hear what they can see, such as car indicators, flashing neon signs, and people’s movements as they walk past.
Fassridge and Freeman believe the sensation to be a type of synaesthesia – a neurological condition that merges senses, meaning one sense can be triggered by stimuli from another – hearing different colours, or seeing certain sounds, for example.
This is a silhouette of a woman spinning but the twist is which direction is she turning?
Clockwise or anticlockwise?
— AHA Games (@ahagamesNG) May 16, 2019
But while most cases of synaesthesia are fairly rare, the appearance of vEAR – as the gif demonstrates – is relatively common. This, the researchers believe, is due to ‘a common dependence on normal variations in physiological mechanisms of disinhibition or excitability of sensory brain areas and their functional connectivity, rather than just on specific patterns of hyper-connectivity’. Got it?
In other words, this type of sensory illusion is based on a common ability to connect certain senses if properly stimulated in the brain. The other types of synaesthesia – seeing sounds, for example – are dependent on more specific connections and rarer patterns within the brain.
Seems my old Pylons gif is doing the rounds with my name chopped off it. Please replace with this one, ta. pic.twitter.com/PMpaP9co82
— HappyToast ★ (@IamHappyToast) July 9, 2014
Anyway, enjoy the gif.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.