Friday, August 12, 2005

about listening

here's the lead-in from The Language Log


Rorschach Science

The stimulus? A journal article about fMRI imaging of men listening to variously-hacked men's and women's voices.

The response? Worldwide resonant evocation of sexual stereotypes, congruent and contradictory alike.

Some headlines: "Er, you what, luv?" -- "Man Leaves Wife, Realizes Six Hours Later" -- "Female Voices are Easier to Hear" -- "What We Have is Failure to Communicate" -- "Men do Have Trouble Hearing Women" -- "Why Imaginary Voices are Male" -- "It's official! Listening to women pays off" -- "Men do have trouble hearing women, scientists find".

The blogospheric reactions are just as creative: "I can't hear you, honey...you're just too difficult to listen to" -- "What to tell your wife when you didn't hear her" -- "Men who are accused of never listening by women now have an excuse -- women's voices are more difficult for men to listen to than other men's, a report said" -- "I've been waiting for this for a long time. I'm often accused of 'selective hearing' in which certain statements just disappear from my consciousness - often statements made by Mrs. HolyCoast. It usually occurs when I'm multi-tasking, such as watching TV or blogging while listening to my better half..." -- "Science explains patriarchal monotheism!" ...

So I went and read the journal article: Dilraj S. Sokhi, Michael D. Hunter, Iain D. Wilkinson and Peter W.R. Woodruff, "Male and female voices activate distinct regions in the male brain", In Press, NeuroImage. I'm deeply puzzled by some of the research that paper describes -- if Sokhi et al. really did what they seem to be saying they did, I don't see how the results can be interpreted at all -- but I'm pretty sure that the experiment doesn't mean most of the things that people are saying it does. Maybe none of them.

Read the rest here.

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