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4. Hearing and Language: Hacks 44–52 > 49. Speech Is Broadband Input to Your He...

Speech Is Broadband Input to Your Head

Once your brain has decided to classify a sound as speech, it brings online a raft of tricks to extract from it the maximum amount of information.

Speech isn’t just another set of noises. The brain treats it very differently from ordinary sounds. Speech is predominantly processed on the left side of the brain, while normal sounds are mostly processed on the right.

Note

This division is less pronounced in women, which is why they tend to recover better from strokes affecting their left-sided language areas.

Knowing you’re about to hear language prepares your brain to make lots of assumptions specially tailored to extract useful information from the sound. It’s this special way of processing language-classified sounds that allows our brains to make sense of speech that is coming at us at a rate of up to 50 phonemes a second—a rate that can actually be produced only using an artificially sped-up recording.


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