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The McGurk effect is a perceptual phenomenon which demonstrates an interaction between hearing and vision in speech perception. It suggests that speech perception is multimodal, that is, that it involves information from more than one sensory modality. The McGurk effect is sometimes called the McGurk-MacDonald effect. It was first described in a paper by McGurk and MacDonald (1976).
This effect may be experienced when a video of one phoneme's production is dubbed with a sound-recording of a different phoneme being spoken. Often, the perceived phoneme is a third, intermediate phoneme. For example, a visual /ga/ combined with an audio /ba/ is often heard as /da/. Further research has shown that it can exist throughout whole sentences. The effect is very robust; that is, knowledge about it seems to have little effect on one's perception of it. This is different from certain optical illusions, which break down once one 'sees through' them.
Study into the McGurk effect is being used to produce more accurate speech recognition programs by making use of a video camera and lip reading software. It has also been examined in relation to witness testimony; Wareham & Wright's 2005 study showed that inconsistent visual information can change the perception of spoken utterances, suggesting that the McGurk effect may have many influences in everyday perception.
- McGurk, Harry; and MacDonald, John (1976); "Hearing lips and seeing voices," Nature, Vol 264(5588), pp. 746–748
- Wright, Daniel and Wareham, Gary (2005); "Mixing sound and vision: The interaction of auditory and visual information for earwitnesses of a crime scene," Legal and Criminological Psychology, Vol 10(1), pp. 103–108.
- Youtube video of McGurk Effect
- Video illustrating the McGurk effect (quicktime)
- AVI Video illustrating the McGurk effect (for those without quicktime installed)
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