August 11, 2015
This writing is my eleventh response to “Talker-specific learning in speech perception” by Nygaard and Pisoni (1998). Findings suggest “the effects of talker variability on perception and memory are a consequence of the additional processing time and resources that are devoted to encoding talker-specific information when the talker’s voice changes from item to item in these tasks.” However, these authors don’t mention that what they call “additional processing time” has to do with the sensitivity of the speaker for how the listener is affected by his or her voice.
The speaker's sensitivity to the listener occurs only there during Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB). However, the effects of the SVB speaker’s voice on the perception and memory of the listener have nothing to do with time, but whether it is perceived as an appetitive stimulus. The listener, who was conditioned by Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB), may actually experience the SVB speaker’s voice as an aversive stimulus, as it doesn’t sound like anything he or she is used to. This is not to say that this cannot be changed, it can, but to build up more SVB repertoire requires a decrease and ideally the extinction of NVB responses.
These authors reify (make processes into things) when they write about “talker-specific information” which presumably is “retained in memory and can be used as a cue, in addition to linguistic content, to retrieve specific linguistic events from memory.” Certainly, the nervous system of speakers and listeners is altered, that is, conditioned, by spoken communication, due to which they are more likely to respond in a particular way, but “talker-specific information” is an inference which doesn’t explain anything.
No wonder that “the question still remains, however, as to the relationship between the processing of talker information and the processing of linguistic content.” That question can only be answered if we rephrase it in functional terms. I suggest: is what the speaker says affected by how he or she is saying it? And, could this perhaps be troubling the listener?
Instead of ‘mentalist’ inferences about “processing of talker-information” and “processing of linguistic information”, we should ask and answer why SVB produces better outcomes than NVB. If what we say is distracted from by how we say it, then we must prevent NVB and enhance SVB. If reducing NVB and increasing SVB leads to better results this is because how we say things determines whether what we say can or will be understood. How the speaker sounds and whether the speaker engages in SVB or NVB, either prevents or distracts the listener from paying attention to what the speaker is saying or it supports and stimulates the listener to pay attention to what the speaker is saying and to remember it.
The researcher’s question: “are the perceptual analyses that extract both types of information [talker-identity and linguistic content] integrally linked? (words between brackets added) is coming close to mine. During SVB what we say is congruent with how we say it, but during NVB the speaker produces contradicting messages with what he or she says and how he or she says it. The speaker's congruence also pertains to his or her verbal and nonverbal expression. Furthermore, the SVB speaker's speaking and listening behaviors are joined, that is, they occur at the same rate. Another way of describing this is that during SVB the speaker is conscious of his or her sound. The SVB speaker's voice is produced and listened to in the here and now. In NVB, on the other hand, the speaker is not listening to him or herself and is only busy trying to get others to listen to him or to her.
Thus, NVB is mechanical, unconscious and uncomfortable speech, which doesn't stimulate the speaker-as-own-listener. Consequently, the NVB speaker separates the speaker from the listener and in doing so separates public speech from private speech. During NVB what we really think and feel is kept out of public speech. We cannot express it as the sensitivity and awareness that is needed to do this is missing. Moreover, as the NVB speaker is not listening to his or her own sound, he or she gets carried away by what he or she is saying without ever realizing how he or she is saying it. In other words, the NVB speaker is heady. He or she is verbally fixated and he or she speaks in a disembodied, dissociated and dis-regulated fashion.