A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Saying ‘car keys’ out loud may help find them – Telegraph

In Nonsense on April 19, 2012 at 05:29

Car keys

Saying ‘car keys’ out loud may help find them 

Research indicates that hearing an object’s name can improve our effectiveness in searching multiple places for that particular item. In some instances the technique of talking out loud helped a “visual search” to such an extent that seemingly “invisible” objects suddenly became “visible”.

Assistant Professor Gary Lupyan and Associate Professor Daniel Swingley, who co-wrote the research, said: “When participants are asked to find a visual item among distractors (other objects), hearing its name immediately prior to searching improves speed and efficiency of searching for the named object.“Hearing an object name can…improve the ability to attend simultaneously to multiple regions of space containing the named objects and even make an otherwise invisible object visible.”

The research, entitled “Self-directed speech affects visual search performance”, was published earlier this year in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Academics recognised that people often talk to themselves but that very little was understood about why.They reasoned that one possible explanation for this “seemingly odd behaviour” was that language was not just a tool for communication. In addition, researchers claimed that speech could alter “ongoing cognitive (and even perceptual) processing in nontrivial ways” – effectively allowing us to concentrate better.

In one experiment, scientists chose 26 undergraduates from the University of Wisconsin in the US and asked them to find 20 coloured drawings among a set of 260.Participants were required to either read the name of the target out load prior to the search or to begin looking for the item without speaking its name.Researchers found: “Speaking the name of the target immediately prior to the search made search significantly faster and more accurate.“The benefit of speaking the name of the target may have arisen through an increase in selection confidence once the target was located.”

In a second similar trial 12 undergraduates from the University of Pennsylvania were again asked to locate specific items among many others but this time they were instructed to either remain silent during the search or to “keep repeating this word continuously into the microphone until you find the target.

The scientists found: “Saying the object’s name during the search resulted in significantly higher accuracy.”Assistant Prof Lupyan and Associate Prof Swingley concluded: “An important question is whether self-directed speech affects the process of locating the target per se, or only aids in identifying it once it is located.

 

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