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Audio Pareidolia

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on March 2, 2009

Have you ever been singing a popular song along with the radio when your friend turns to you and asks, “What are you singing?” The incredulous look on their face suggests to you that perhaps you are not singing the correct words, and eventually you both get a laugh at how horrendously you mangled the lyrics. I friend of mine, for example, once confessed that they thought that in the  song “little red corvet” Prince was singing “pay the rent collect.”

This is a form of audio pareidolia. Pareidolia is the neurological phenomenon of seeing a pattern or figure in random noise – a face in the clouds, or Jesus on a tortilla shell, for example. The images are not really there. There is just the suggestion of a face or some figure in the image and our brain does all work, finding the closest match to a recognized pattern, and then enhancing and even filling in details to create the illusion of a face or whatever.

Audio pareidolia is hearing words in sound that are not actually there. This can occur by misinterpreting words that are being said, or by hearing words in random noise. The phenomenon is the same as with visual pareidolia, in that the brain is searching for a recognized pattern, finds the closest match, and then processes the incoming sensory information to enhance the apparent match.


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