Learning a second language can alter sensory perception

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language
May 12, 2018

Learning a second language can alter sensory perception

Learning a second language can change the way people integrate sight and hearing to make sense of speech, a Northwestern University study has found.

The study found that a bilingual person and a monolingual person listening to the same speaker can hear two different things.

According to the researchers, people who speak more than one language are more likely to experience what’s known as the ‘McGurk Effect,’ which causes them to hear completely different sounds when speech conflicts with what they see.

A bilingual and monolingual listening to the same speaker can hear two completely different sounds, showing that language experience affects even the most basic cognitive processes,’ said Sayuri Hayakawa, study co-author and post-doctoral research scientist.

When people hear a speech sound (e.g. ‘ba’) that conflicts with what they see (e.g. ‘ga’), they will often perceive a completely different sound (e.g. ‘da’).

This illusion is called the ‘McGurk Effect,’ and researchers found it is more likely to occur if you speak more than one language.

‘We find that language experience can change sensory perception,’ said Viorica Marian, a professor of communication sciences and disorders and psychology at Northwestern.

‘Our discovery is that bilinguals are more likely to integrate across auditory and visual senses.’

Credits: Daily Mail

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