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The McGurk Effect: Does It Impact Bird Identification?

SWWA WV by JAG

Swainson’s Warbler singing near New River Gorge, WV…at least it sounded like a Swainson’s while I was watching it!

This really is an aside, not a full-blown post. But I thought it might kick off some interesting discussion.

I saw this post on Krulwich Wonders (an NPR blog) about the McGurk effect, where the BBC video below quite convincingly demonstrates that your eyes can “overrule” your ears, tricking you into mishearing things.

I wonder how much (or if) this McGurk effect might enter into bird identification? I often have the experience where the sound a bird makes clinches the identification of a bird I can’t see or can’t see very well. But what about a bird that I’ve made a (possibly incorrect) visual ID of? Could I then mis-hear its calls based on my visually-derived assumptions? Should we all close our eyes when listening to birds sing, so as to hear what they are “really” singing?

 

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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
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