Baffling Audio Illusion Divides Opinion Online—What Do You Hear?

A baffling audio clip is proving divisive online, as no one can quite agree on what they're hearing.

A brainteaser, similar to the Yanny vs Laurel debate a few years ago, is sweeping the internet after being uploaded on TikTok.

A man, named Kegan_Stiles, shared an auditory illusion on his page, along with nine options.

The 20-year-old, from Pennsylvania, captioned the video: "What do you hear?"

The options are "Bart Simspon bouncing," "rotating pirate ship," "that isn't my receipt," "lobsters in motion," "that is embarrassing," "lactates in pharmacy," "I'm chasing Martin," "baptism piracy" and "that isn't mercy."

The clip has amassed more than 11 million views after being uploaded on Monday, and has since been shared to Reddit as well.

Numerous people have commented on the video, revealing they hear a mash-up of various options, or a different one depending on what they're reading.

"Actually, whenever I look at a different piece of text, that's what I hear," Impishfont713 said.

Agreeing, Keisan Wright commented: "Whatever one I look at is the one it sounds like."

DamageAxis revealed: "I listened to it a couple more times and now I'm hear lactating and Lobster piracy alternating back and forth."

TerraGamer9384 suggested: "Bart Simpson Pirate Ship."

EPIC-GAMER-2468 suggested: "You don't even need to read it. Look away while it is playing and just think of any of the words. It's crazy."

Althius1 replied: "Even though I know now it is saying 'That is embarrassing'.... I hear 'That isn't Mercy' much more strongly, and default to 'Bart Simpson Bouncing' if I don't think of anything."

While lucidspoon added: "I could hear all of them, but 'That is embarrassing' seemed the most clear, so I'm glad that's what it actually was."

The phenomenon of visuals affecting audio is well documented, with the auditory illusion explained by Jessamyn Schertz, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Linguistics.

She told CTV News: "Humans are so used to listening to speech that it seems easy and effortless, but actually, reconstructing someone's message from the sounds we hear is an extremely complex task. Just by looking at a word—or even by closing your eyes and imagining a word—that influences the way we hear the exact same sound."

The audio file listed on the TikTok video is "That Is Embarrassing," a soccer chant by Derby County fans in the U.K., suggesting this is what's actually being said.

Newsweek reached out to Kegan_Stiles for a comment.

Stock image of a woman listening
Stock image of a woman listening. An auditory illusion is gaining interest online as it divides opinion over what's being said. Prostock-Studio/Getty Images