Reading voices and hearing text: talker-specific auditory imagery in reading

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2008 Apr;34(2):446-59. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.34.2.446.


A series of experiments was conducted to determine if linguistic representations accessed during reading include auditory imagery for characteristics of a talker's voice. In 3 experiments, participants were familiarized with two talkers during a brief prerecorded conversation. One talker spoke at a fast speaking rate, and one spoke at a slow speaking rate. Each talker was identified by name. At test, participants were asked to either read aloud (Experiment 1) or silently (Experiments 1, 2, and 3) a passage that they were told was written by either the fast or the slow talker. Reading times, both silent and aloud, were significantly slower when participants thought they were reading a passage written by the slow talker than when reading a passage written by the fast talker. Reading times differed as a function of passage author more for difficult than for easy texts, and individual differences in general auditory imagery ability were related to reading times. These results suggest that readers engage in a type of auditory imagery while reading that preserves the perceptual details of an author's voice.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Association Learning*
  • Auditory Perception
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Male
  • Psycholinguistics*
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading*
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors