Keely Savoie reports on a phenomenon that’s always fascinated me:
That inner voice that enunciates the written words you read comes in many different forms. Some say it sounds like the spoken voice. Some say it sings. And others say it is someone else’s voice entirely. Whatever the voice sounds like, it performs an important function in interpreting the written word.
Mara Breen, assistant professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke College, studies the relationship between the inner voice and its musical rhythms—known as implicit prosody—and how we mentally process the written word. She recently received a grant from the James F. McDonald Foundation to study the role of the inner voice in reading fluency and comprehension.
“What we are specifically interested in is what is the experience of prosody when we are reading silently,” Breen said. “In other words, what is the little voice in your head doing while you are reading? How does implicit prosody support reading comprehension?”
Breen and colleagues at Haskins Laboratories and the University of Connecticut have completed research that demonstrates a relationship between prosodic fluency and reading comprehension in high school students, even when accounting for IQ differences.
There’s some very interesting stuff about reading limericks and “what happens when the written word violates the brain’s expectation”; I look forward to seeing more such results. (Thanks, Sven!)