Category Archives: Hearing and Language

Ten years of the language gene that wasn’t

It’s now ten years since mutations in the FOXP2 gene were linked to language problems, which led to lots of overblown headlines about a ‘language gene’, which it isn’t. The actual science is no less interesting, however, and Discover Magazine has a fantastic article that looks back on the last decade since the gene’s discovery […]

The secret life of the inner voice

Don’t miss the latest RadioLab short, a programme about a guy whose world has been unevenly slowed down. Psychological fascinating but also a beautiful piece of storytelling. When Andy first met Kohn, he saw a college freshman in a wheelchair who moved slow and talked slow. But it only took one conversation for Andy to […]

Strong piano at high fruitiness

A wonderful graph which shows how strongly the sounds of the piano, strings, woodwind and brass instruments are associated with fruity smells, across smells of low, medium and high fruitiness. From a recent study entitled ‘A Fruity Note: Crossmodal associations between odors and musical notes’. The study also tests how strongly these instruments are associated […]

Auditory brain trip

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, you could do far worse than spending it listening to an excellent edition of the Guardian Science Podcast on the neuropsychology of hearing and language. Perceptual and linguistic neuroscience has a tendency to bit a little technical and difficult to engage with but the programme is both wonderfully […]

Reaching for the high notes

Science writer Emily Anthes has a fascinating interview with a speech therapist who works with male-to-female transsexuals to help make their voice sound more feminine. It gives both an insight into a little known area of speech therapy as well as highlighting some of the often overlooked differences between male and female voices. EA: So, […]

It’s pronoun or never

Scientific American has a fascinating interview with psychologist James Pennebaker​ about how your use of pronouns can reveal a surprising amount about you. Much to my surprise, I soon discovered that the ways people used pronouns in their essays predicted whose health would improve the most. Specifically, those people who benefited the most from writing […]

Diagnostic dilemma, innit bruv

I’ve just been directed to a wonderful 2007 case study from the British Medical Journal that reports how middle aged doctors can mistake street slang for symptoms of schizophrenia. Detailed and repeated assessment of [the patient’s] mental state found a normal affect, no delusions, hallucinations, or catatonia, and no cognitive dysfunction. His speech, however, was […]

Hearing the voices of colours

A spectacular case of psychosis, rather oddly described as ‘Methamphetamine Induced Synesthesia’, in a case report just published in The American Journal on Addictions. The report concerns a 30-year-old gentleman from the Iranian city of Shiraz with a long-standing history of drug use who recently started smoking crystal: Six months PTA [prior to admission] (October […]

Bollocks to it

Teenagers love to swear. Says who? Says science you melon farmers. And what could be better than a top ten of teenage swearing compiled by science wielding psycholinguists? A US – UK show down. Let the cursing commence. The book Trends in Teenage Talk: Corpus Compilation, Analysis and Findings was written to summarise the findings […]

A victim of metaphor

A gripping piece from Not Exactly Rocket Science describes how simply changing the metaphors used to describe crime can alter what we think is the best way of tackling it. The article covers a new study on the power of metaphors and how they can influence our beliefs and understanding of what’s being discussed. In […]

Want to come up and see my sketchings?

The Royal Society of Arts has an awesome video that animates one of Steven Pinker’s lectures on ‘Language as a Window into Human Nature’. It covers how we use certain implicit properties of language to negotiate social relationships – discussing everything from the cult film Fargo to why we try and seduce people with indirect […]

Poetic sensitivities

Perceptual psychologists have long been interested in limen – the threshold at which a stimulus becomes detectable. The following limen for the different senses, expressed in everyday terms rather than in terms of physical quantities, have a certain poetry to them. I got this information via email as a scan of an (unknown to me) […]

A poetry of muddlings and loss

Art critic Tom Lubbock developed a brain tumour which estranged him from language in subtle and unpredictable ways. The Guardian has a stunning article where the writer describes how his relationship with language was altered as the tumour encroached upon his brain. It is one of the most powerfully nuanced accounts of language impairments I […]

Sensory blending

The BBC’s science series Horizon just broadcast a fantastic edition on perception, illusions and how the senses combine with each other to the point of allowing us to integrate artificial new senses. If you’ve got a healthy interest in psychology, the first half of the programme discusses several important but well-known effects like the rubber […]

The social resonance of baby babble

The New York Times investigates how the goohs and gaahs of baby babble transform through the first year of life, becoming ever more language-like until they mutate into the first recognisable words. But more than just tracking how the sounds change over time, the piece is a fascinating look at how they become enmeshed in […]

The ’68 comeback perceptual

Elvis makes a fleeting comeback, accompanied by a milk drinking chimp and some well-dressed mice, in the hallucinations of a patient with Parkinson’s disease who is described in a case study published in the Southern Medical Journal. He had compulsive gambling behavior and multiple hallucinations (visual and auditory). Visual hallucinations were simple (shapes of shadows, […]


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