Do you hear something when you watch this silent gif? Despite the clip of a pylon skipping over the wires of two other pylons having no sound, many people claim to hear a thudding noise when the pylon hits the ground.
The baffling gif, created in 2008 by animator Happy Toast, resurfaced online recently when Dr. Lisa DeBruine from the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow posted it on Twitter and asked her followers what they experienced when they watched it.
There’s no question the gif is dividing the internet, and it does feel a little reminiscent of the saga of the infamous white and gold dress circa 2015, but why do so many people experience a thudding sound when they watch it?
Many experts have weighed in with differing opinion, though some, like DeBruine, have been completely stumped: “I thought some of the vision scientists I follow would be able to explain it right away, but it seems like there are several plausible explanations and no clear consensus,” she told the BBC.
7 year old son’s report on skipping pylon: “I can’t hear it, but my body can feel it”— Jonathan Toolan (@toolan) December 3, 2017
DeBruine’s Twitter caught the attention of Chris Fassnidge, a PhD student at London’s City University, who has been carrying out research in this exact field.
He suggested a possible theory which his lab call the “visual ear.” He told the BBC he suspects the noisy silent gif phenomenon is closely related to Visually-Evoked Auditory Response, known as vEAR.
“This is the ability of some people to hear moving objects even though they don’t make a sound, which may be a subtle form of synesthesia — the triggering of one sense by another. We are constantly surrounded by movements that make a sound,” Fassnidge explains.
“I might assume I am hearing the footsteps of a person walking on the other side of the street, when really the sound exists only in my mind.”
What determines who experiences vEAR and how intensely, Fassnidge says is probably linked to the individual differences in how our brains are wired.
This post was written by Bettina Tyrrell. For more, check out our sister site Now to Love.