In this Science Says episode Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, CEO & Founder of The Flourishing Center, dives into how paying attention and listening can help foster successful communication. Better communication helps us synchronize with others on a deeper level.
Researchers have discovered that the brains of listeners and speakers become synchronized during conversation, and that this “neural coupling” makes for effective communication. In essence, the participants’ brains connect in a kind of “mind meld.”
Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication
Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Communication is a shared activity resulting in a transfer of information across brains. Simply put, good conversation results in a ‘mind meld’.
Natural communication unfolds through the joint participation of speaker and listener
How does this work? Speakers construct grammatical sentences based on thoughts, convert thoughts to motor plans, and execute the plans to produce vocal sounds. Listeners analyze the sounds, build phonemes into words and sentences, and ultimately decode sound patterns into meaning. In this study, the researchers observed significant speaker–listener temporal coupling only during successful verbal communication. When communication was blocked (i.e., during listening to a foreign, incomprehensible language), the synchronization was lost. As expected, this synchronization was present in a temporally shifted time course of the speaker’s brain activity relative to the moment of vocalization. Hence, listeners’ brain activity mirrors the speaker’s brain activity with a delay.
Thus, the brains of listeners and speakers become synchronized during conversation, which is what results in good communication.
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Welcome to Science Says (SS), where every episode highlights a research study in the field of positive psychology. Tune in to discover the science of human flourishing while Emiliya Zhivotovskaya teaches you how to put your new, science-based knowledge into action… because science says!
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