We all know that GIFs are short, silent animations. They carry no sound files within them. Which is why it is extremely odd that people are claiming that they can hear sound from one GIF.
This GIF resurfaces every few months when someone posts it asking why are they able to hear it. Many people will respond to it as a very distressing experience. This GIF was created by a Twitter user and resurfaced again when a scientist put an appeal for help to understand why people hear a noise from it.
WHY CAN I HEAR THIS GIF ? pic.twitter.com/8UifgPBk56
— Best Tweet (@BestTwlt) April 17, 2017
If you can also hear it, don’t worry, You are not alone. Almost 75 percent of people were able to hear it.
Dr. Lisa Debruine, a researcher at the University of Glasgow, also included a poll to see how many people could hear the gif. So far, 75 percent have said that they could hear a thudding sound.
What do you experience when you watch this gif?
— Lisa DeBruine ???? (@lisadebruine) December 3, 2017
So what exactly is going on with this GIF?
For starters, this is not just a GIF. There were many other gifs posted all over the internet that people claimed they can hear. Such as the one in which you can hear two elephants on a see-saw.
And another one in which you can hear the Queen classic, We will rock you.
Our perception to sound can be influenced by visual information in can be influenced by visual information. It is not limited to soundless GIFs. The McGurk effect shown in a video from BBC Horizon Program shows that your program can be tricked into hearing different things based on the visual information you are perceiving at the time.
Is there a particular technique/algorithm you use to get the shaking so realistic, or just a good artistic eye? I’m going to see if I can produce simplified versions to test the parameters of the illusion.
— Lisa DeBruine ???? (@lisadebruine) December 4, 2017
Not on that one, it was just a quick random camera shake that happened to get it almost right, It could be improved with more of a degrading wave, but I tend not to bother putting that much effort in to my gifs 😀
— HappyToast ? (@IamHappyToast) December 4, 2017
Another study earlier this year found that 22 percent of participants could ‘hear’ faint sounds when they were shown a flash of light, even though no sound was recorded. Around 5 percent people in the population have synesthesia, a phenomenon where information received from one sense like the sound is perceived like taste automatically and involuntarily. However, this study showed that a lot more of the population ‘heard motion’; hearing sound in response to visual stimulus. This is not an effect limited to synesthetes.
If it is possible to trigger an auditory response using a simple flashlight, the gif of the power pylons skipping may just be a particularly good example of how a stimulus can cause this effect, hence so many people seem to ‘hear’ it.
Hey! Do you have a version without the camera shake? Curious if it causes the same auditory hallucinations.
— Actual Given Name (@TruthInSynth) December 4, 2017
People online have suggested that the GIF may be especially good at producing this phenomenon because of the camera shake adding the illusion that it’s so big it can shake the ground, you should be hearing a sound as well. It can also be because the caption above the gif states that you should be hearing a sound.
I’m having difficulty knowing whether I would have heard anything if I had not read the suggestion in your tweet that I should hear something.
— Ben Ramsey (@ramsey) December 3, 2017
Me too, but now I can't unhear it.
— Trash Gordon (@lomotrashgordon) December 3, 2017
Whatever it was, has started a new debate on the internet just like the one we had about The Dress.