Study finds age doesn’t affect perception of ‘speech-to-song illusion’

A strange thing sometimes happens when we listen to a spoken phrase again and again: It begins to sound like a song.

This phenomenon, called the “speech-to-song illusion,” can offer a window into how the mind operates and give insight into conditions that affect people’s ability to communicate, like aphasia and aging people’s decreased ability to recall words.

Now, researchers from the University of Kansas have published a study in PLOS ONE examining if the speech-to-song illusion happens in adults who are 55 or older as powerfully as it does with younger people.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

The KU team recruited 199 participants electronically on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a website used to conduct research in the field of psychology. The subjects listened to a sound file that exemplified the speech-to-song illusion, then completed surveys relating to three different studies.

“In the first study, we just played them the canonical stimulus made by the researcher that discovered this illusion — if that can’t create the illusion, then nothing can,” said co-author Michael Vitevitch, professor of psychology at KU. “Then we simply asked people, ‘Did you experience the illusion or not?’ There was no difference in the age of the number of people that said yes or no.”

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