• Question: when you are speaking normally yourself, do you ever think about your research and what is going on currently in your brain?

    Asked by DaBestUnicorn to Daniel, Carolyn, Alyssa on 8 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Carolyn McGettigan

      Carolyn McGettigan answered on 8 Jan 2018:


      YES – all the time!

      It’s one of the things I love about being a psychologist and neuroscientist – that studying human behaviour means we can learn something from observing ourselves.

      One of the things I think about most when speaking is how I modify the way I speak for different settings. Over Christmas I visited my family in Ireland, and while I was there I noticed myself using words and phrases I only use in that environment, and that I spoke with a stronger accent than usual – these things are an important part of expressing myself in a way that reflects my personality and relationships at home. But then last Friday I was back in London giving a talk at a conference, where I was aware that my accent was different – I spoke more slowly, and my pronunciation was adjusted to make sure that my audience of people with diverse language backgrounds could understand me. Some of these changes in the way we speak happen unconsciously, and some are quite deliberate. In my research I’ve been studying how the brain controls the voice in this flexible way – for example, to learn the sounds of a new language, or to convey a particular social goal (e.g. “I like you” vs “I want to distance myself from you”). Speaking is not just about the words we say, but also *the way that we say them*.

    • Photo: Alyssa Alcorn

      Alyssa Alcorn answered on 9 Jan 2018:


      No, probably never. My brain is like a microwave: it appears to be working but I have very little idea why, or what’s actually going on in there.

      However, when I am in schools working with students on the autism spectrum, I spend a lot of time thinking about how they might be processing what I am saying and doing, and how their brains might be processing the sensory environment around us.

    • Photo: Daniel Mills

      Daniel Mills answered on 10 Jan 2018:


      yes, absolutely – indeed I may stop and explain this to students to illustrate a point I am trying to make

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