Read my lips

If you’ve seen someone talking before, it’s apparently easier to understand them, even when you can’t hear them clearly. This is one of the findings of a research project at University of California Riverside, according to an article on EureakAlert!.

Researchers showed a group of students a video of someone talking with the sound turned down. Then later showed half of the students the same video with the sound turned up, but with some background noise. The other half of the students saw videos of a different person with the sound on. The first group were able to decipher what the person in the video was saying, even though they couldn’t hear them clearly. The second group had more trouble working out what was being said.

These findings suggest that we all lip-read to some extent, and that we probably find it easier to understand and to read the lips of those we know well.

This entry was posted in Language.

6 Responses to Read my lips

  1. Chibi says:

    Wow, that’s interesting. I have noticed before that I tend to understand/hear people better when looking straight at them rather than looking off somewhere else, so I guess my observation supports that conclusion.

  2. David says:

    At school, when someone, who is sitting a further way from me is trying to talk to me or I’m trying to talk to them, when we shouldn’t be, we lip-read each other and can understand everything we are saying.

  3. SamD says:

    I’m sure we lip-read to some extent, but it is probably easier to concentrate on what someone is saying when you face that person.

    I think we also rely on context to understand what someone is saying.


  4. James says:

    mildly irrelevant, but I know a dutch couple living in the UK who both speak flawless English. This is especially impressive on the wife´s part as she has substantial hearing loss, and largely lip reads. She told me that Americans are easier to read as they move their lips more than the Brits. Apparently


  5. Polly says:

    I’ve heard that Americans tend to enunciate more and generally speak more clearly than Europeans in general.

  6. Adam says:

    I’m not sure about Americans enunciating more. I think it’s our rhotic accent (pronunciation of the letter ‘r’). America and Canada are mostly rhotic, whereas England is mostly non-rhotic.

    I studied American Sign Language, the biggest complaint I got from my deaf friends is that they couldn’t read my lips.

    I have heard that Brazilian Portuguese is more enunciated than European Portuguese. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

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