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Fooled! Audio Illusions for April Fools!

Happy April Fools day everyone! While we were tempted to claim that we were working on an Antlion Audio album in response to Soulja Boy trying to make a game console (which is not an April Fool’s joke… yet), instead we opted for something a little more realistic.

What we hear is just as fallible as what we see, but “audio illusions” have never quite reached the fever pitch of the white/gold dress. So we thought it would be fun to grab some great examples off YouTube and talk a little bit about how they work, but mostly, it’s an excuse to sit back and be fooled in the best way possible.

Audio Only Illusions

No visuals needed, our ears can be fooled!

Shepherd Tone

This simple tone sounds like it is always rising, it’s a pretty simple illusion.

The visual equivalent is like watching a barber pole spin, and in fact, if you show the octave scale of what you’re seeing and imagine it wrapped in around such a pole you’ll get the idea of what’s going on pretty quick. Basically there’s always a middle pitch increasing while the higher octaves fade away.

The TriTone Effect

As you listen to the item below, write down (in order) if the the pairs of notes ascending or descending.

No matter how many times you listen you should get the same results every time. Not cool so far, right? However, you and I probably get wildly different results. It turns out these pairs of notes neither ascend nor descend in reality, they’re just 3 notes played on top of each other. We perceive their ascending or descending patterns based on our own dialect and language learning process. If you ask your mother or father one or both of you will probably get the exact same answers, but if you hit up your friend online (Using your ModMic, of course) who lives far away you’ll almost certainly end up with different answers. Try it!

Mental Priming

Remember this one? If not, here’s the deal - As you listen to this clip think of the words “Brain Storm” Then watch it again and think of the words “Green Needle.”

Pretty much universally you’ll hear whichever one you’re thinking of at the time. This is because when we hear anything ambiguous our brain fills in the gaps. By thinking of the words this primes our brains to look out for those patterns and it actually starts to find them (possibly where they shouldn’t be). Blame this effect every time you “mishear” someone asking you to take out the trash. 


Audio & Visual Illusions

By adding in a visual component we can trick our brains to hear all kinds of crazy things:

Visual Priming

Remember that last one? We don’t even need to THINK of the wrong word, if we SEE the wrong imagery overlaid on on audio we can be fooled too!

Bill? Pail? Mayo? The “word” you hear doesn’t change at all, but the imagery tricks your brain into hearing something else.

Or a more fun version (watch all the way through and you’ll hear it, even if you don’t want to).

The McGurk Effect

Watch and listen:

This, as the BBC ghost voices tell us, is because when we see someone’s mouth we use that as a visual cue to help us define what we’re hearing. That doesn’t mean we can all lip read…

Got an audio illusion you love that we skipped? Tweet to us @AntlionAudio and let us know!

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