Listening with a Mind’s Eye

Play this sound clip:

What was it you just heard?

A seagull perhaps? Yes! It was definitely a seagull wasn’t it! You even ‘saw’ that bird through your mind’s eye. You actually pictured a seagull in flight. Memory served you well.


What you did is what we all do: we match the sound with the image. Even when the image is absent. We put ‘two and two together’ and make four. That’s cos we is knowledgeable peeps innit!

Yet the truth is that you only listened to a sound. You didn’t physically see the seagull; you supposed the sound was made by a seagull because you know seagulls sound like that. But perhaps it wasn’t really a seagull at all. Maybe it was me doing my best seagull impression, in which case the image fitting the sound would be of me, red faced and squinting, cupping my hands to my mouth. Or perhaps the sound came from a musical instrument with seagull-like qualities. Or from crinkly paper being cut with scissors. Point is, we can’t be sure it was actually a seagull.

We see and we hear, and that information is put together to form what we know as ‘reality’.

‘Sure’, you’ll say. ‘So give me the image to match the sound’, you’ll say. ‘Otherwise I’m being tricked’, you’ll say.

Okay, fair enough. But is what we see and hear at the same time always to be relied upon? Let’s find out.

So, as our friend Mr Harry McGurk points out, if what we are seeing clashes with what we are hearing then our reality is distorted.

I am reminded of a quote which allegedly came from Hollywood director Jerry Belson:

Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME

Anyway, let’s have some fun. Can you identify these 3 different sounds? (Answers follow)











1. Golf club hits ball

2. Piano breaking

3. Freight train

How many did you get right?

Until next time readers,


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…


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