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Hearing lips and seeing voices


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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MCGURK, H., MACDONALD, J. Hearing lips and seeing voices. Nature 264, 746–748 (1976).

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