Tuesday, November 22, 2016

August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer

Dear Reader, 
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.

August 10, 2015

August 10, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer

Dear Reader, 

This writing is my tenth response to “Talker-specific learning in speech perception” by Nygaard and Pisoni (1998). "Serial recall of spoken word lists produced by multiple talkers was poorer than recall of lists produced by a single talker; but the result was found only in the primacy portion of the serial recall curve.” These results need to be analyzed in terms of whether the speaker produced Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) or Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) and positively influenced the listener with an appetitive sounding voice or an negatively influenced the listener with an aversive sounding voice. 

“The primacy portion of the serial curve” is hypothesized to be absent in SVB and is believed to be mainly be a function of NVB. It was suggested that "variation in a talker’s voice from word to word in a list competes for processing resources in the recall task.” This interpretation doesn’t answer the question why this “competition for processing resources” occurs.  The SVB/NVB distinction, however, makes us realize that this “competition” occurs only due to NVB.

In SVB the verbal and nonverbal expressions of the speaker are aligned, but in NVB they are two different messages as they are disjointed. Moreover, in SVB the speaker is his or her own listener. This always positively effects the feelings of the listener, but in NVB the speaker is not listening to him or herself, which always negatively effects the listener. What is recalled by the listener from an aversive-sounding NVB speaker is mainly that he or she sounds aversive. 

Stated differently, because lexical information dominates and hinders the linguistic analysis of what the speaker says, the listener who listens to a NVB speaker is believed to remember less than the listener who listens to a SVB speaker. Whether it is possible or not, the listener who listens to a NVB speaker will try to move away from the aversive stimulation of the speaker and consequently remember less of the lexical information.

The “analysis of talker information during a memory task appears to be both time- and resource-demanding,” but only when the listener is dealing with a NVB speaker. Reasoned from the SVB/NVB distinction, we find that it is not the “talker variability” which “increases the capacity demands of the working memory system”, but it is SVB which increases this capacity and, by contrast, it is NVB, which decreases this working memory capacity. 

The researchers noted that recall is also affected by presentation rates. They  don’t mention that these, in turn, are determined by the kind of vocal verbal behavior of the speakers, that is, by their SVB or NVB. A SVB speaker's speech episode contains more instances of SVB than NVB, while a NVB speaker's presentation contains more NVB instances than SVB instances. 

The SVB presentation occurs at more relaxed pace and slower rate than the anxiety and stress provoking NVB presentation. Leaving out the influence of the talker’s voice on the listener, the researchers overlook what may be the most important independent variable, which is unspecified in the catch-all-phrase “talker variability.”

Authors unaware of the SVB/NVB distinction will maintain ‘mentalistic’ definitions, which are useless in any behavioral account. 'Talker variability' is a useless term if it doesn't address SVB and NVB. “This interaction between presentation rate and serial recall for the multiple- and single-talker word lists suggests that at fast presentation rates, when processing is constrained by time, talker variability affects both the perceptual encoding and the rehearsal of items in the serial recall task” (words underline by me). 

To consider the influence of the speaker’s sound, we should do away with constructs that represent verbal bias. Conclusions are drawn which prevent us from finding out what is happening. “At slower presentation rates, when listeners have more time and resources to encode and rehearse talker information, they are able to use that information to aid them in the encoding of item and order information.” With a SVB speaker the listener is at ease and better able to pay attention to what he or she is saying. The SVB/NVB distinction is a more parsimonious explanation than inferences about “encoding” and “rehearsing” of the “item and order information”.

Based on my knowledge about SVB and NVB, I object to the researcher’s conclusion. “These memory findings suggest that talker information may not be discarded in the process of spoken word recognition, but rather is retained in memory along with the more abstract, symbolic linguistic content of the utterance.” They seem to think that nebulous cognitive processes explain how “talker information” is “retained in memory.” 

What is left out by these authors is the fact that the listener’s neural behavior is altered by the sound of the speaker's voice, leading one listener to supposedly have better memory than the other. What actually happens is that the body of the listener who ‘remembers’ what the speaker has said was positively affected by the tone of the speaker’s voice. The stress that is produced by the NVB speaker always has an adverse effect on memory. 

If we don’t discard constructs as “information”, we continue to misrepresent classical and operant conditioning effects – in speakers and listeners –  of how the speaker sounds. Presumably “Talker-specific information is retained in memory along with lexical information" and "this information can facilitate listeners’ recognition memory.” SVB and NVB can be heard, but “talker-specific information” and “lexical information”cannot. 

Ironically, the researchers, who found that “Words repeated in the same voice were recognized better than words repeated in a different voice”, didn’t realize that fixation on words, a characteristic of NVB, distracts them from paying attention to how this “same voice” actually sounds.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

August 9, 2015

August 9, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer

Dear Reader,

This writing is my ninth response to “Talker-specific learning in speech perception” by Nygaard and Pisoni (1998). It amazes me that the relation between “the indexical properties of the speech signal” and “the more abstract linguistic content of an utterance” needs to be pointed out. My reasoning is based on Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) in which what we say is as important as how we say it. Reasoning which is based on what I call Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) creates a split between what we say and how we say it. The former is more important than the latter in NVB.

We must realize that “the problem” created by this split only occurs in NVB and never in SVB. There is no problem that in SVB these two are conveyed simultaneously. Surely, most researchers are unaware of the great difference between SVB and NVB. That is why they write that “The essence of the problem is that both types of information are conveyed simultaneously along the same acoustic dimensions within the speech signal."

Actually, they are unknowingly saying that NVB is problem. Only in NVB “the information about the talker must be disentangled from information about the linguistic content of the utterance.” What they call “perceptual normalization” I call SVB, as SVB includes “an account of the processing and representation of both the linguistic and the indexical information that are carried in parallel in the speech signal.” This is a sophisticated way of describing SVB. Moreover, while SVB normalizes our perception, NVB can be said to distort our perception. It is only a small step from “talker variability” to a different way of talking, that is to SVB and NVB.

“Several studies have shown that talker variability has a significant impact both on the perceptual processing of spoken utterances and on the memory representations constructed during the perception of spoken language.” The interpretation of such studies begins to make much more sense when we identify such impact as the positive or negative emotions in the listener.

The two subclasses of vocal verbal behavior, SVB and NVB, refer to how the listener’s affective experiences interact with “perceptual processing” and “memory representations constructed during the perception of spoken language.” A reinterpretation of the research makes clear that because of a certain way of talking we perceive reality as it is, as we embody that reality during our spoken language.

“Talker variability has been shown to affect both vowel perception." Also, it was found that "perceptual identification of words presented in noise was significantly poorer when the words were produced by multiple talkers than when they were produced by a single talker." Once we are familiar with the SVB/NVB distinction it is quite clear that only SVB can improve vowel perception and spoken word recognition, while NVB will always impair it.

Perceptual identification of words presented in noise will only be better if this single talker has SVB, but not if he or she has NVB. If among multiple talkers there would be a couple of SVB talkers and if the single talker would be a NVB talker, then perceptual identification of words uttered by multiple talkers is hypothesized to be higher than for the single talker. Also, the “difficulty ignoring irrelevant variation in the talker’s voice when asked to classify syllables by initial phoneme” is hypothesized to only occur with a NVB speaker, but not a SVB speaker. To the contrary, with a SVB speaker’s variability is believed to enhance perception.

“Aspects of the speech signal related to classifying talker identity seem to be integrally linked to attributes related to the processing of the linguistic content of the signal.” They are, but we can only acknowledge this during SVB, whereas during NVB we deny this. Thus, we understand each other better during SVB in which the speaker talks with, not at the listener. In SVB there is no need to classify talker’s identity as the listener is safe, but in NVB talker’s identity is important as the talker threatens the listener.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

August 8, 2015

August 8, 2015

Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer

Dear Reader, 

This writing is my eight response to  “Talker-specific learning in speech perception” by Nygaard and Pisoni (1998). “The human voice conveys a considerable amount of information about a speaker’s physical, social, and psychological characteristics, and these aspects of speech, referred to as indexical information, complement the processing of linguistic content during spoken communication.” 

A speaker’s voice produces Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) or Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB) and this “indexical information” about the speaker conveys to the listener, whether he or she is safe or not. Since there is no aversive stimulation of the listener by the speaker during SVB, SVB is the spoken communication of safety. In NVB, by contrast, the speaker’s voice is experienced as a noxious stimulus, which aversively affects the listener. 

During NVB the speaker threatens the listener. Only during SVB can these indexical effects be separated from the linguistic content, but during NVB they contradict the content or distract from it. As the listener is affectively influenced by the sound of the speaker’s voice, it is important to detect whether the speaker induces positive or negative emotions in the listener. 

Since each speaker is also his or her own listener, the speaker-as-own-listener must make sure whether he or she is not producing a sound with which he or she makes him or herself feel unsafe. It is hypothesized that the paranoid schizophrenic produces his or her own paranoid affect, that is, the covert speech of the paranoid schizophrenic is considered to be an effect of the overt NVB speech of others. Thus, NVB private speech is a result of NVB public speech. Moreover, the paranoid schizophrenic is believed to be stuck with his or her own negative self-talk, which distracts from and often completely negates public speech. Similarly, a bipolar person’s mania, a depressed person’s isolative behavior or an obsessed person’s fear of germs, is a function of NVB self-talk, which is conditioned by NVB public speech. 

The only way to remedy negative NVB self-talk, which, due to different phylogenetic, ontogenetic and cultural variables is expressed differently by different people, is to join listening and speaking behaviors, that is, to listen and speak simultaneously and to produce SVB. ‘Mental illness’ therefore is construed as a listener’s response to NVB, which can only be remediated by SVB in which an individual's listening and speaking behaviors are joined. 

In practice this means that the listener must be speaking in order to be able to hear him or herself. Based on the SVB/NVB distinction, the goal of every therapist should be to shape speaker-as-own-listener behaviors in patients. When given the opportunity to do so, that is, when appropriately stimulated to express him or herself, the ‘mentally ill’ listener will be again capable of recognizing if he or she experiences the speaker as threatening or not.  

“These psychological factors are readily perceived when anger, depression, or happiness is recognized in a speaker’s voice.” The fact that this listener’s ability is not learned and is causing all sorts of problems, which, from a behavioral perspective can be accounted for as the separation of speaking and listening behavior, has always been downplayed by the NVB speakers. 

Many so-called ‘mental health problems’ would never exist if speakers, therapists and psychiatrists included, would notice how their coercive voice negatively affects the listener. “In everyday conversation, the indexical properties of the speech signal become quite important as perceivers use this information to govern their own speaking styles and responses.” 

When a listener is repeatedly exposed to or involved in NVB he or she will be conditioned to produce NVB. ”From more permanent characteristics of a speaker’s voice that provide information about identity to the short-term vocal changes related to emotion or “tone of voice,” indexical information contributes to the overall interpretation of a speaker’s utterance.” 

The meaning of what the speaker says is found most importantly in how he or she sounds. If it doesn’t resemble how the listener was conditioned to sound it will make no sense to him or her. NVB has conditioned listeners with coercive behavioral control. A listener thus conditioned would only be able to respond to a forceful and demanding voice of a NVB speaker.