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Letters to Nature
Nature 264, 746 - 748 (23 December 1976); doi:10.1038/264746a0

Hearing lips and seeing voices


Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH, UK

MOST verbal communication occurs in contexts where the listener can see the speaker as well as hear him. However, speech perception is normally regarded as a purely auditory process. The study reported here demonstrates a previously unrecognised influence of vision upon speech perception. It stems from an observation that, on being shown a film of a young woman's talking head, in which repeated utterances of the syllable [ba] had been dubbed on to lip movements for [ga], normal adults reported hearing [da]. With the reverse dubbing process, a majority reported hearing [bagba] or [gaba]. When these subjects listened to the soundtrack from the film, without visual input, or when they watched untreated film, they reported the syllables accurately as repetitions of [ba] or [ga]. Subsequent replications confirm the reliability of these findings; they have important implications for the understanding of speech perception.



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