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Do you exactly know what you just said?


London, May 3 (IANS) You may find the question a bit awkward and even inconsequential if you have assumed all along that you knew what you said before you actually said it.

But research suggests that you rely a lot on what you hear to know what you said.

Auditory feedback plays an important role in helping us determine what we are saying as we speak, research reveals.

“Our results indicate that speakers listen to their own voices to help specify the meaning of what they are saying,” said researcher Andreas Lind of Lund University in Sweden.

Theories about how we produce speech often assume that we start with a clear, preverbal idea of what to say that goes through different levels of encoding to finally become an utterance.

But the findings support an alternative model in which speech is more than just a dutiful translation of this preverbal message.

For the study, researchers asked the participants to complete a classic Stroop test, which provided a controlled linguistic setting.

During the test, participants were presented with various colour words (like “red” or “green”) one at a time on a screen and were tasked with naming the colour of the font that each word was printed in, rather than the colour that the word itself signified.

The participants wore headphones that provided real-time auditory feedback as they took the test. But the researchers had rigged the feedback using a voice-triggered playback system without the knowledge of the participants.

They found that in many cases, when asked to report what they had said, participants reported the word they had heard through feedback, rather than the word they had actually said.

“These findings suggest that the meaning of an utterance is not entirely internal to the speaker, but that it is also determined by the feedback we receive from our utterances, and from the inferences we draw from the wider conversational context,” Lind explained.

The effect may be even more pronounced in everyday conversation, which is less constrained and more ambiguous than the context offered by the Stroop test.

The study appeared in the journal Psychological Science.

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