What the voices in your head sound like

When we read something silently we are, essentially, saying it to ourselves in our internal monologue. Psychology researchers at Britain's University of Nottingham wanted to know whether the voice that reads in our heads matches the voice that we read aloud in. In other words, does your internal monologue have an accent?

It's an interesting question. Although you might think it's a given, previous studies have suggested that the voice you speak with and the voice you think with might not be pronouncing words quite the same. This newer study, published in PLOS last fall, found the opposite—that there is at least some level of match between audible and silent pronunciation.

What I really like, though, is how they constructed the study. After all, you can't just ask people how they pronounce words in their heads. Like the question of whether you say "soda" or "pop" or "coke", once you start thinking about it hard enough to answer, you suddenly lose all ability to know what you do when you aren't paying attention. (Note: That soda/pop thing hasn't actually been scientifically demonstrated. It's just a bit of personal anecdata that I thought was relevant here.) In order to get around that problem, the Nottingham researchers had subjects read limericks while carefully monitoring their eye movements. The subjects were chosen based on their accents—one group pronounced their "a" sounds so that "path" would rhyme with "Kath". To the other group, that rhyme wouldn't rhyme at all. Instead, for them, "path" rhymed with "Garth". Read the rest