Reversed Speech Intelligible

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Sat May 1 11:43:02 UTC 1999

You may have seen this one already:

"Divide a recording of a spoken sentence into segments, each 1/20th of a
second long. Flip each segment so that it plays backward, then string the
segments back together in the correct order.  

"Then play this string of backward sounds. You might expect mangled
noise. Individual consonants and vowels are generally shorter than 1/20th of a
second, which means the word sounds have been chopped apart and
reassembled in the wrong order. 

"But we don’t always hear what we think we hear, and that’s a good thing.
Intuitively and automatically, the speech-decoding part of the brain
sifts through noise and distortion and focuses on the portions it can

"The first time, I listened to it, I was quite shocked," says Kourosh
Saberi, a researcher in the California Institute of Technology’s division of
biology. "The sentence is so clearly audible."

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