Psycholinguistics—More Than Just a School Subject

As an #slp2b, psycholinguistics is like that ex who just can’t take a hint. No matter how many classes we take, that “ex” keeps coming around—again and again.

As you no doubt know, psycholinguistics is the psychological and neurobiological factors that allow people to learn, understand, and use language. We learn a lot about this throughout our coursework—from how to find the fundamental frequencies of our voices to the places of articulation for each consonant in our language.

It can be a complicated topic to grasp, but I’ve learned that making complex concepts relevant to me—as a person, not just a speech student—really helps me understand these subjects.

Small Changes—Big Impacts

One aspect of psycholinguistics is categorical perception—how the perception of small changes can impact larger changes. But, what does that mean?

Imagine there’s a crystal-clear glass of water in your hand. It’s filled to the half-way point, but there are no measurements to indicate how full it really is. Now, let’s say you take a sip from that glass. Would the water level be noticeably different? Probably not. What if you took 15 sips? Now the change would be noticeable.

As my time as an undergrad came to an end last year, I found myself looking inward and analyzing my own growth. I’m certainly different now than the first day I stepped foot on campus. I learned and gained experiences. My values and personality changed. The real question was … at what point did I change? Was it a specific instance in my undergrad years or a series of small changes that led to my evolution?

I’m a different person than I was two years ago—that’s obvious. But I’m certainly the same person I was two hours ago—right? The criteria are subjective. The line is thin. I suppose that’s why it’s a form of “perception,” because it differs from person-to-person.

The McGurk Effect

I’ve also thought a lot about the McGurk Effect. If you need a refresher, the McGurk Effect is a perceptional phenomenon where you can’t trust auditory and visual cues; when paired together, they’re notorious for deception.

Need a more concrete example? Don’t worry—I’ve got you covered!

Say we play a recording of an ambiguous sound. No one can distinguish the sound at first. Then, it’s paired with a visual aid: <ba>. Suddenly, listeners recognize the sound as, “ba.” But listeners also react the same when the visual changes to <da> or <ga>. The catch? The sound remained exactly the same!

As an undergrad, I felt like I failed if I earned anything less than a A- in class. As a grad student—with a harder course load, clinical placements, and a graduate assistantship—I’m thrilled if I receive an A-. Again, just goes to show that perceptions are dependent on circumstances.

So, What’s My Point?

We all change—little by little. As long as these changes propel our lives forward, they’re positive. If they don’t, maybe it’s time we switch things up.

And let’s not forget, the perception of our lives is subjective and dependent on outside factors. Don’t let others influence how you recognize your own changes. Your progress is your own. Your accomplishments are your own.

So, be confident! Take the time to look inward, strive for better, and ignore the unwanted peanut gallery. And maybe … just maybe … that ex has a point!

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Susan March 21, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    I read your essay on the blog.nsslha.org, Maddie. I found it very introspective. You took something very clinical , and made it quite simple to understand. I appreciated your depth of understanding , and I actually felt more positive in my personal evaluation of myself.

    Reply

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