How clear speech equates to clear memory

November 6, 2018, Acoustical Society of America
How clear speech equates to clear memory
Some conversations are forgotten as soon as they are over, while other exchanges may leave lasting imprints. Researchers want to understand why and how listeners remember some spoken utterances more clearly than others. They're specifically looking at ways in which clarity of speaking style can affect memory. They will describe their work at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting, Nov. 5-9. This image shows a sample of the sentences used to test listening and memory. Credit: Keerstock

Some conversations are forgotten as soon as they are over, while other exchanges may leave lasting imprints. University of Texas at Austin researchers Sandie Keerstock and Rajka Smiljanic want to understand why and how listeners remember some spoken utterances more clearly than others. They're specifically looking at ways in which clarity of speaking style can affect memory.

Keerstock, a UT Austin doctoral student, and Smiljanic, an associate professor and linguist who heads UTsoundLab, will describe their work at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting, held in conjunction with the Canadian Acoustical Association's 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada, Nov. 5-9 at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, Canada.

In one experiment, 30 native and 30 nonnative English listeners were presented with 72 sentences, broken down into six blocks of 12 sentences each. These sentences—such as "The grandfather drank the dark coffee" or "The boy carried the heavy chair"—were alternately produced in two different styles: "clear" speech, in which the speaker talked slowly, articulating with great precision, and a more casual and speedily delivered "conversational" manner.

After hearing each block of a dozen sentences, listeners were asked to recall verbatim the sentences they had heard by writing them down on a sheet of paper, after being given a clue such as "grandfather" or "boy."

Some conversations are forgotten as soon as they are over, while other exchanges may leave lasting imprints. Researchers want to understand why and how listeners remember some spoken utterances more clearly than others. They're specifically looking at ways in which clarity of speaking style can affect memory. They will describe their work at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting, Nov. 5-9. This is a sample of the clear speech used to test listening and memory. Credit: Keerstock

Both groups of listeners, native and nonnative, did better when sentences were presented in the clear speaking style. This is in line with their previous study in which clearly spoken sentences were recognized better than casual sentences as previously heard by both groups of listeners. The UT Austin researchers offer a possible explanation for these results: When a speaker is talking faster or failing to enunciate as crisply, listeners have to work harder to decipher what's being said. More mental resources, consequently, are drawn toward that task, leaving fewer resources available for memory consolidation.

Clearly produced speech could benefit students in the classroom and patients receiving instructions from their doctors, Smiljanic said. "That appears to be an efficient way of conveying information, not only because we can hear the words better but also because we can retain them better."

Some conversations are forgotten as soon as they are over, while other exchanges may leave lasting imprints. Researchers want to understand why and how listeners remember some spoken utterances more clearly than others. They're specifically looking at ways in which clarity of speaking style can affect memory. They will describe their work at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting, Nov. 5-9. This is a sample of the conversational speech used to test listening and memory. Credit: Keerstock

In their next round of experiments, she and Keerstock will focus on the speakers rather than the listeners to see whether speaking clearly affects their own memory. "If you're rehearsing for a lecture and read the material out loud in a hyperarticulated way," Keerstock asked, "will that help you remember better?"

Explore further: Recognizing foreign accents helps brains process accented speech

Related Stories

Recognizing foreign accents helps brains process accented speech

April 20, 2017
Our brains process foreign-accented speech with better real-time accuracy if we can identify the accent we hear, according to a team of neurolinguists.

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

To please your friends, tell them what they already know

February 14, 2017
We love to tell friends and family about experiences we've had and they haven't—from exotic vacations to celebrity sightings—but new research suggests that these stories don't thrill them quite as much as we imagine. ...

Hard to understand, harder to remember

May 18, 2015
Struggling to understand someone else talking can be a taxing mental activity. A wide range of studies have already documented that individuals with hearing loss or who are listening to degraded speech—for example, over ...

Familiar voices are easier to understand, even if we don't recognize them

October 1, 2018
Familiar voices are easier to understand and this advantage holds even if when we aren't able to identify who those familiar voices belong to, according to research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for ...

Recommended for you

Trying to get people to agree? Skip the French restaurant and go out for Chinese food

December 11, 2018
Here's a new negotiating tactic: enjoy a family-style meal with your counterpart before making your opening bid.

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

December 11, 2018
Research in recent years has linked a person's physical or social environment to their well-being. Stress wears down the body and compromises the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illnesses and other conditions. ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think

December 11, 2018
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.