Hearing sounds in silent images

Fig.1 Skipping Pylons – Happy Toast (2011)

So twitter has been going crazy this week over an electricity pylon jumping rope. Why?  Even though the GIF has no sound, viewers are hearing the sound of a thud as the happy pylon lands, or, are they just seeing sound and their brain is filling in the blanks?

There have been many articles in the past few days written about why this can be heard (by some people, not all) and Happy Toast Animation, the creators, are over the moon. Getting featured on international news channels and international newspaper websites.

On reading an article written about the phenomenon on the science based Illusion Index the author suggests there are a couple of possible reasons why we can ‘hear’ the thud. One is the McGurk and McDonald study.

“McGurk and MacDonald hypothesise that the effect is due to the fact that the brain is trying to make a “best guess”, given the information that is coming from different senses is contradictory. The effect is reported to be particularly salient when the quality of auditory information is poor, in which case the visual information trumps the auditory information (Massaro & Cohen 2000).”

Fig. 2 Documenting sound (2017)

The ‘skipping pylon’ GIF is a version of what I am endeavouring with my ongoing project to document sound in a visual sense. My goal is to create a dictionary of sorts for use in images which I can include sound or make reference to sound. Sound is an interesting subject to settle on illustrating because if you are a hearing person, you certainly have witnessed occasions when you believe you have seen the sound, be it a heavy bag dropped on a dusty floor or a whip cracking. Now to capture the visual essence of it, that is my challenge.


Happy Toast Animations. Retrieved from http://www.happytoast.co.uk/   

Macpherson, F. in F. Macpherson (ed.), The Illusions Index. Retrieved from  http://www.illusionsindex.org/i/skipping-pylon

Baysan, U. (July 2017) “McGurk Effect” in F. Macpherson (ed.), The Illusions Index. Retrieved fromhttp://www.illusionsindex.org/i/mcgurk-effect


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s