“Listening to someone speak is a simple process. The sound waves leave their mouth, enter your ear and travel to your brain, where your neurons get busy making sense of those random sounds. It all seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, not quite… sometimes this very simple process can go weirdly wrong.” A. Swank & D. Taylor Washington Post
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: You can literally hear with your eyes, A. Swank & D. Taylor Washington Post
“The video below demonstrates something called the McGurk effect, a famous perceptual illusion that psychologists Harry McGurk and John MacDonald discovered in the 1970s while studying how children develop language. The two actually discovered the effect by accident when a sound technician synced a video they were studying to the wrong sound track. Although the sound is actually exactly the same throughout the video (it’s always “ba”), most people will perceive it as changing from “ba” to “va” as the image changes.
What is happening here? Basically, your brain is receiving conflicting signals from your eyes and your ears. While your ears are hearing “ba,” your eyes are seeing a mouth pronounce the syllable “va.” When that happens, your brain lets the visual information override the auditory information, and the sound appears to change.
However, some people will not perceive the effect as strongly. Studies have shown that women perceive the effect more strongly than men do. And those with damage to the brain, dyslexia, autism and certain language disabilities may not hear the sound change at all.
Fascinatingly, research has shown that the McGurk effect doesn’t work well for Japanese listeners, possibly because of the language’s different sounds, and a cultural tendency in Japan to avoid looking at a speaker’s face…This is just one example of the many fascinating techniques your brain uses to manage and simplify the huge amount of sensory information it is receiving at all times.
Sometimes when your brain tries to deal with uncertain situations, it jumps to conclusions that just aren’t quite right.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The video demonstrates the McGurk effect.
- A sound technician synced a video incorrectly.
- This was a simple auditory illusion.
- Basically, your brain is receiving conflicting signals.
- The effect works well.
- Not all people will perceive the effect as strongly.
- Some people with dyslexia may not hear the sound change.
- You can also learn to override the McGurk effect.
- There is cultural tendency in Japan to avoid looking at a speaker’s face.
- This is a fascinating technique.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
The ___works so ___that you don’t necessarily have to be looking right at the person’s___. You might___ the McGurk___ even if you are ___at another___of your screen. If you have a lot of___time and___, you can even ___the McGurk effect yourself while looking in a mirror and___ the sound.
Word List: mouth, energy, effect, perceive, well, part, effect, looking, extra, mouthing, replicate,
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
This is just/jest one example of the manny/many fascinating/facets techniques your brain/brawn uses to message/manage and simplify/simply the huge/hug amount of sensors/sensory information it is receiving at all times. Sometimes when your brain tries to deal/dead with uncertain situations, it jaunts/jumps to conclusions that just aren’t quite/quit right.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them restate the following statement. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.
“People who often watch dubbed TV or movies — which are more common in countries that have their own language but don’t have a large film industry, like Vietnam or Russia — can learn to ignore what shape the actors’ mouths are making on television.”
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.