Before reading this article, consider viewing the video below. It’s a compilation of a number of various videos showing how many can be tricked into failing to read the word EYES. Enjoy how funny it is to see people reading E-Y-E-S as “e-yes” instead of how you would obviously normally read it. Some even exclaim that it’s not a word.
You can look for other similar videos using the keyword “eyes spelling prank” or something similar. There are numerous other videos featuring an interesting perspective into how people can be made to mistakenly read a word as simple as “eyes.”
What is this E-Y-E-S test?
In the videos, somebody asks someone to read what the letters Y-E-S spell, then proceeds to asking what word the letters E-Y-E-S spell. Emphasis is usually placed on how Y-E-S is being read. The two questions are repeated over and over again as the asker enjoys the scene of someone failing to read the simple word, making a fool of themselves in the process.
It’s interesting to see how many fall for the trick considering that the word “eyes” is something even some kindergarteners are already familiar with. There were students, office employees, businessmen, a mechanic, and even a doctor who suddenly forgot how to read the word “eyes.” Fathers, mothers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, and lovers became victims of the anomaly.
As shown in some of the YouTube videos, many are baffled at how effectively the trick question works. In a number of videos, the askers can be heard remarking how they couldn’t believe what they were actually observing. There was at least one video wherein the asker struggled—in between giggles—to verbalize her awe over how she found it so “dumb” for someone to misread such a simple word (while watching the YouTube clips) only to find out that even her relatively “smart” or well-educated friends would actually end up embarrassing themselves to the tricky question.
This trick question is nothing new. It has been on YouTube for a good number of years. There are also other variations of it. Back in the early ‘90s, some of you may remember that the words used were “bye” and “two.” With “bye,” the asker asks someone to read the words “bya,” “byi,” and “byo” before asking how B-Y-E is read. Many would tend to end up reading BYE in this case as “byee.” The same goes for “two,” wherein an asker asks someone to read how the letter combinations “twa,” “twe,” and “twi” are read before asking what T-W-O spells. Many would end up reading T-W-O as “tWow,” enunciating the “w” right after “t.”
Moreover, the trick question can also be used with the words “house,” “horse,” and “hours.” Ask someone to read H-O-U-S-E and H-O-R-S-E before asking what H-O-U-R-S spells. You will likely encounter a good number of people who would pronounce the word with an articulated “h” instead of keeping it silent as in “aw(u)rz.”
Why are many falling for this?
Unfortunately, there has been no formal or scientific study conducted on the mechanics of this mental trick. However, it is most likely attributable to the first question (asking what Y-E-S spells). This question somewhat conditions the mind of the person being asked or at least initiates the confusion.
Y-E-S spells an extremely simple word that it can make someone overthink. This overthinking can then result in confusion. This confusion can then lead to the mind shutting down to what it knows about irregular pronunciations in an attempt to logically approach the problem being presented. Hence, many end up reading E-Y-E-S as “e-yes.” On the other hand, the simplicity of the word may condition the mind to think similarly simply. If Y-E-S reads yes, the prepending of an “e” to “yes” is perceived to be a simple, straightforward question that leads to the simple, straightforward “e-yes” pronunciation.
Again, these are not scientific explanations but many would most likely agree that the initial Y-E-S question plays a very important role in making the trick work. If the question is simply to read what E-Y-E-S spells, almost everyone would likely be able to read the word correctly.
Eyes needed to properly read E-Y-E-S
It’s worth pointing out that the auditory nature of the questioning is an important factor for the trick to work. The whole YES-EYES questioning is done through voice, not in writing. Notice that in many of the videos, the “victims” of the prank only realized how badly they messed up as they wrote the word on paper or as they were given the hint (by the asker pointing to the eyes or making suggestions referencing the eyes). Once the eyes were involved, the trick disintegrated.
It appears that the human brain has difficulties reading certain words spelt out vocally. The process of reading, after all, is largely visual. Reading words upon hearing the spelling letter by letter is not the norm; it is not how people read. It’s understandable why there is some struggle especially when it comes to words that are not pronounced exactly as they are spelt. It seems that when words are spelt out letter by letter, the brain processes it phonemically. The brain tries to read it according to the basic sounds of each letter or syllable.
Phonemic awareness tends to prevail when reading is done on a letter by letter or phoneme by phoneme basis. It ends up dominating the vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension aspects of reading. Add to this the fact that the mind is already being tricked to think in a certain way as it is fed with the information that Y-E-S spells yes.
Are multilinguals immune to the trick?
There’s a comment in one of the YouTube videos that stands out. It claims that the trick may not work on bilinguals or multilinguals. The idea is that people who speak English as a second language (ELS) are somewhat immune to getting misled by the pair of questions. Accordingly, people who are not native English speakers are more aware of the correct pronunciation of basic words since they are able to separate their knowledge of local language pronunciation and English pronunciation. They tend to have separate vocabularies for different languages. Since the first question is about the pronunciation for the English word “yes,” they switch to their English vocabulary so they are expected to get the correct pronunciation for E-Y-E-S.
It’s like what happens when native English speakers say “would of” instead of the correct “would have.” ELS speakers are unlikely to use “would of” in their conversations as they know the phrase in full instead of having learned it by hearing it. The “would of” pronunciation is largely a mondegreen particularly for the contraction “would’ve.” Notice how close it is to the actual pronunciation for “would’ve” or even the full phrase “would have.”
It somewhat makes sense to think that multilinguals would fare better with the “E-Y-E-S test.” Being fluent in more than one language is scientifically proven to have cognitive benefits. Bilinguals are known to have a better executive function, the control system of the mind that is responsible for a person’s attention, planning, and ability to focus. Bilingual or multilingual people are also known to perform better in tasks that require the suppression of a response that is deemed inappropriate in a certain context.
Based on the theories and current research supporting the idea of improved cognition among multilinguals, it’s not that difficult to believe that multilinguals are going to fare better in the E-Y-E-S reading test. However, there is no actual scientific research that would back this idea. Getting tricked to misread a simple word like “eyes” is not a monopoly of native English speakers as what is proven in the video below. Some college students fall for it while others manage to overcome the trick.
Multilinguals falling for the trick
There are YouTube videos of people who appear bilingual or multilingual getting “victimized” by the trick.
In the video below, for example, an Indian or South Asian girl who appears obviously bilingual (based on the accent) is following the common mistake of pronouncing E-Y-E-S as “e-yes.”
The same can be observed in the video below of an Asian dad getting tricked into forgetting his basic vocabulary. The dad has an accent typical of an Asian migrant to the US so it shouldn’t be inaccurate to assume that he is bilingual or multilingual.
The video below of the trick question being played in a healthcare office setting also shows that not all bilinguals or multilinguals resist the trick. The Asian woman in the video struggled to correctly read the word even after mentally scribbling the word. She even got it wrong after her first attempt to write the word on paper.
It should be emphasized that failing to correctly read the vocally spelt E-Y-E-S does not automatically make one dumb although it certainly makes one feel as such. It’s a trick question, after all. Even smart people fall for tricks especially when they are in a certain state of mind that makes them gullible and confused. It’s difficult to prove that multilinguals fare better or that native English speakers are worse in not falling for the E-Y-E-S test. You can try to do your own little test, though,. by trying the trick question on your friends and acquaintances.
You might wonder how translators and interpreters would respond to this trick. Fortunately, for translators the trick wouldn’t work since they are only dealing with written materials. The possibility of getting tricked to mispronounce words is only a problem for interpreters. However, highly proficient and experienced interpreters like the ones at Day Translations, Inc are less likely to fall for the trick.
If you are looking for precise and prompt translations or interpreting services, make sure you get it from a reputable and highly experienced language service provider. The company has teams of native speakers who can competently and efficiently address all types of language service needs. These human translators and interpreters have the experience and expertise in specific languages to make sure that they provide nothing but accurate and contextually accurate and appropriate interpreting and translations. Contact us by phone at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us any time. Our company operates 24/7 and can also accept appointments through Terpy, our official mobile app.
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