Re: The top three big problems: Better Speech Reading

  • From: "Will Pearson" <will@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2007 01:55:00 +0100

Hi Andy,

Andy wrote:
"It sounds like, in short, getting the speech correct is absolutely mission critical for the blind, would you folks consider that to be a correct assumption?"

In some respects. My hypothesis is that the main problem is that speech often presents too much code at once. For example, presenting an entire line consisting of a complex calculation. This is often too much information to store in memory at once. Grouping and renaming the code in order to reduce the amount of memory it occupies may be impossible whilst listening to speech.

I would imagine that grouping and renaming requires sub-vocal rehersal. Sub-vocal rehersal uses the areas of the brain that are responsible for language processing, and listening to speech also requires the use of these areas. I suspect that performing linguistic translation from programming language to natural language also uses these areas of the brain. So, a conflict builds up over which task gets to use the areas of the brain responsible for language processing. This may lead to a perceptual refractory period or the loss of one task, deepending on whether you take PRP or dual task theory as your attentional theory of choice for this sort of thing.

Visually reading code probably has the same conflicts but as visual reading is performed under the control of the reader then they are able to pause at will in order to serialise the tasks. I suspect that this pausing and serialising may be important in managing to read code successfully.

I've noticed similar problems to this when observing screen reader users reading other forms of text. They often have difficulty comprehending text with densly packed semantics, such as most research papers, and require several passes over the text, or parts of it, in order to comprehend it. I also found that people who controlled the speech rate more closely, eg. reading line by line or word by word, performed better than those who used automatic speech, such as setting the speech to automatically read from the current position to the end of the document.

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