Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sound mirroring of pronunciation: Trick or treat?

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
In keeping with the spirit of the season, how about this title of a summary from Science Magazine Why creepy people give us chills! of research by Leander and colleagues at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Because mirroring of pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) is central to EHIEP training, insight into what influences learner response (i) when they are mirroring video models or (ii) where they mirror a "live" instructor--or (iii) where they, themselves, are mirrored during correction of pronunciation--is very important.

Quoting Finkel of Northwestern University, "The study . . . effectively combines several hot research topics, from behavioral mimicry to embodied cognition, the idea that humans can feel their emotions in very physical ways." One key (not surprising) finding was that, " . . . people who fail to appropriately imitate the mannerisms of others during social interactions can actually make their peers feel colder—" Without going into the details of the experiment, in one condition, subjects actually DID report feeling colder, literally!

Now not that any instructor doing haptic-integrated work even could be un-empathetic, the subtle impact of mirroring (effective or ineffective) has been the subject of several earlier posts. One of the principles that has emerged --as strange as it may sound--is that having students mirror a video in initial training is generally preferable. (That can be a simple video created by the instructor, his or herself--or later one that we'll be making publicly available.) Likewise, subsequent use of mirroring of PMPs in correction must be done appropriately as well. It is a cool (but not creepy), good trick that almost always treats the problem efficiently! 

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