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Audio Pareidolia

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12 comments to Audio Pareidolia

  • wb4

    Reverse speech is another example of this. Some people (including one of my co-workers) believe that the mind subconsciously encodes backwards messages into our everyday speech. They record their own speech, then play it backwards and listen for hidden “messages” from their subconscious.

  • The Blind Watchmaker

    You made me think of the “Stairway to Heaven” played backward bit, demonstrated by Michael Shermer.


    I only heard gobblety-gook (?spelling) until I read what I was supposed to hear. Then I could not help but hearing the Satanic message.

  • Steve Page

    Good video, and from Adam Buxton too. I recommend Adam and Joe’s podcast if you’re ever in need of some light relief. There’s no skepticism in there, but it is funny, and occasionally hilarious.

  • Steve Page

    Oops, should’ve said that I was referring to the first video (sent in by Peter Davis).

  • Bastard Sheep

    With that doll I can hear the “Islam is” bit, but the last two words definitely don’t sound to me like “the light”. I listened to it about 30 times on the podcast while waiting for my bus home one day and still can’t figure out where they get “the light” from.

    The best thing about visual and audio pareidolia is that it’s the fooling of senses and interperative systems we use on an almost constant basis. If such highly utilised senses can be fooled so easily, then how accurate can senses which need to be “trained” (such those who claim they can sense energy/ghosts/whatever) be?

  • russ

    getting the lyrics wrong like “pay the rent collect” is called a mondegreen – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen. you can find some pretty funny ones on the net: “There’s a bad moon on the rise” -> “There’s a bathroom on the right”

  • larry coon

    Brian Dunning found a nice one for his podcast. This is just output from a sinusoidal tone generator:


    Play it, then play this:


    Now that your mind has been primed, go back & play the first one again.

    (Thanks to Brian and Skeptoid.)

  • gr8googlymoogly

    The alternate lyrics to Carmina Burana layed me out! Hilarious! My friends and I have another term for audio pareidolia as it refers to mistaken song lyrics – chronic lyricosis. Brian Dunning had a great episode on Skeptoid about audio pareidolia. Check it out – the ‘Benny Lava’ song was easily as good as the Carmina Burana example.

  • fredeliot2

    The term for mistaking the song lyrics is mondegreen. Source is The Word Detective.

  • radiantmatrix

    ARGH! There are two irritating problems in this post.

    First, Carmina Burana is an entire cantata. The hilarious YouTube video is simply one movement, known as “O Fortuna” – it opens and closes the cantata.

    Second, as @fredeliot2 points out, the phenomenon of hearing different words than were spoken (or sung) is properly mondegreen. The phenomenon of pareidolia is the discovering of seeming patterns in random stimulus.

    Thus, hearing speech in the audio patterns produced by amplifying random radio/EM interference (i.e. “electronic voice phenomenon”) is audio pareidolia, while hearing “foot leaking when near cherries” in O Fortuna is not.

  • I maintain that mondegreen is a specific case of audio pareidolia. The core phenomenon is the subconscious searching for a best pattern fit for ambiguous sensory input. Sure – random noise is maximally ambiguous, but that does not mean that garbled or difficult-to-make-out lyrics cannot also qualify.

    While I appreciate semantic precision, and I appreciate learning the word “mondegreen” which I had not previously encountered, I warn against being distracted by semantics and thereby missing the actual point.

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