Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Visual Cues Help People Understand Spoken Words

Date:
March 6, 2009
Source:
Baylor College of Medicine
Summary:
Seeing the lip and face movements as a person speaks can improve your understanding of spoken words by as much as sixfold, according to researchers.

Understanding what a friend is saying in the hubbub of a noisy party can present a challenge – unless you can see the friend's face.

Related Articles


New research from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the City College of New York shows that the visual information you absorb when you see can improve your understanding of the spoken words by as much as sixfold.

Your brain uses the visual information derived from the person's face and lip movements to help you interpret what you hear, and this benefit increases when the sound quality rises to moderately noisy, said Dr. Wei Ji Ma, assistant professor of neuroscience at BCM and the report's lead author, in a report that appears online today in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

"Most people with normal hearing lip-read very well, even though they don't think so," said Ma. "At certain noise levels, lip-reading can increase word recognition performance from 10 to 60 percent correct."

However, when the environment is very noisy or when the voice you are trying to understand is very faint, lip-reading is difficult.

"We find that a minimum sound level is needed for lip-reading to be most effective," said Ma.

This research is the first to study word recognition in a natural setting, where people report freely what they believe is being said. Previous experiments only used limited lists of words for people to choose from.

The lip-reading data help scientists understand how the brain integrates two different kinds of stimuli to come to a conclusion.

Ma and his colleagues constructed a mathematical model that allowed them to predict how successful a person will be at integrating the visual and auditory information.

People actually combine the two stimuli close to optimally, Ma said. What they perceive depends on the reliability of the stimuli.

"Suppose you are a detective," he said. "You have two witnesses to a crime. One is very precise and believable. The other one is not as believable. You take information from both and weigh the believability of each in your determination of what happened."

In a way, lip-reading involves the same kind of integration of information in the brain, he said.

In experiments, videos of individuals were shown in which a person said a word. If the person is presented normally, the visual information provides a great benefit when it is integrated with the auditory information, especially when there is moderate background noise. Surprisingly, if the person is just a "cartoon" that does not truly mouth the word, then the visual information is still helpful, though not as much.

In another study, the person mouths one word but the audio projects another, and often the brain integrates the two stimuli into a totally different perceived word.

"The mathematical model can predict how often the person will understand the word correctly in all these contexts," Ma said.

Others who took part in this research include Xiang Zhou, Lars A. Ross, John J. Foxe and Lucas C. Parra of The City College of New York in New York City.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Baylor College of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ma et al. Lip-Reading Aids Word Recognition Most in Moderate Noise: A Bayesian Explanation Using High-Dimensional Feature Space. PLoS ONE, 2009; 4 (3): e4638 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004638

Cite This Page:

Baylor College of Medicine. "Visual Cues Help People Understand Spoken Words." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091326.htm>.
Baylor College of Medicine. (2009, March 6). Visual Cues Help People Understand Spoken Words. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091326.htm
Baylor College of Medicine. "Visual Cues Help People Understand Spoken Words." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091326.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Studying Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

Studying Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is studying the popular Music and Memory program to see if music, which helps improve the mood of Alzheimer's patients, can also reduce the use of prescription drugs for those suffering from dementia. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) Moms and Dads get a more hands-on approach to parenting with tech-centric products for raising their little ones. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) Researchers have come up with another reason why dark chocolate is good for your health. A substance in the treat can reportedly help with memory. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

AFP (Oct. 27, 2014) Coding has become compulsory for children as young as five in schools across the UK. Making it the first major world economy to overhaul its IT teaching and put programming at its core. Duration: 02:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins