Can auditory errors and illusions better help us understand how the brain works? In episode 32 Mike Vitevitch from the University of Kansas talks with us about his research into the cognitive mechanisms underlying the Speech-to-Song auditory illusion. His open-access article “An account of the Speech-to-Song Illusion using Node Structure Theory” was published with Nichol Castro, Joshua Mendoza, and Elizabeth Tampke in June 8, 2018 issue of the open-access journal PLOS One.



Websites and other resources

    • “Psychology of Language” (left audio channel only):


Press coverage

The University of Kansas | PsyPost | Science Daily | The VergeIBTimes

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Hosts / Producers

Ryan Watkins & Doug Leigh

How to Cite

Watkins, R., Leigh, D., & S. Vitevitch, M.. (2018, September 19). Parsing Science – Speech-to-Song Illusion. figshare.


What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers


Mike Vitevitch: It’s these same mechanisms that explain speech perception, speech production, that explains other kinds of speech errors as well.

Doug Leigh: this is parsing science the unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Doug Leigh. Ryan’s out with a cold this week but he’ll be back next time.

Leigh: In 2003, the British American psychologist Diana Deutsch released the spoken word CD phantom words and other curiosities, which contained this sentence:

(Diana Deutsch’s voice): This sounds as they appear to you are not only different from those that are really present. But they sometimes behave so strangely as to seem quite impossible.

Leigh:  While editing this recording in 1995, Deutsch accidentally left the phrase sometimes behave so strangely looping on a computer like this:

sometimes behaves so strangely
sometimes behaves so strangely
sometimes behaves so strangely
sometimes behaves so strangely

Leigh: Instead the phrase appearing to be spoken, Deutsch heard a melody in the sign-song cadence of her voice and dubbed this effect, the Speech-to-Song Illusion. Today, we’re joined by Mike Vitevitch from the University of Kansas. He’ll talk with us about his research into the cognitive mechanisms underlying the illusion. Here’s Mike Vitevitch.

Vitevitch: Hi! I’m Mike Vitevitch. I’m the chair and professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, and I’m a language researcher, I’m a speech researcher. Most of the people that had looked at this before were music cognition people. So, I was bringing just a very different perspective, very different lens, very different set of tools, very different set of theories to bear on this illusion. So, I think that was kind of a neat perspective that we were able to bring as language researchers. There’s been a lot of work looking at these connections between music and language. Seems like a lot of it comes from the music side. So well, why aren’t we, as you know language people, kind of doing a bit more to look at this, and then looking at that as a possible way to see how the system works? So, one of the things that really made this kind of interesting for me is — I really don’t know a lot about music and what other authors — Josh Mendoza was a composition major. He was in my intro psych class and when I did, I had you know did this as a demo, his eyes were like the size of saucers, his jaw was on the desk like all this is so cool. How do you do that, what guy like work on this. So, I was like yeah sure all right cool! So, it was nice to have somebody who really knew a lot about music, you know, working on this.

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