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Open Access Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices: the Origins and Development of the ‘McGurk Effect’ and Reflections on Audio–Visual Speech Perception Over the Last 40 Years

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Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices: the Origins and Development of the ‘McGurk Effect’ and Reflections on Audio–Visual Speech Perception Over the Last 40 Years

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Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, PA1 2BE, UK

*Emeritus Professor of Psychology.

In 1976 Harry McGurk and I published a paper in Nature, entitled ‘Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices’. The paper described a new audio–visual illusion we had discovered that showed the perception of auditorily presented speech could be influenced by the simultaneous presentation of incongruent visual speech. This hitherto unknown effect has since had a profound impact on audiovisual speech perception research. The phenomenon has come to be known as the ‘McGurk effect’, and the original paper has been cited in excess of 4800 times. In this paper I describe the background to the discovery of the effect, the rationale for the generation of the initial stimuli, the construction of the exemplars used and the serendipitous nature of the finding. The paper will also cover the reaction (and non-reaction) to the Nature publication, the growth of research on, and utilizing the ‘McGurk effect’ and end with some reflections on the significance of the finding.


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