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Each week on Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, explore different aspects of human behavior and the brain.

How Tongue Twisters Tie Us In Knots

"He slit a sheet, a sheet he slit, upon a slitted sheet he sits." Okay now, five times fast.

Tongue twisters and rhymes are a great way to entertain yourself and your friends at parties and on long road trips, but what makes for a good tongue twister and how do they work in the brain?

In this edition of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman andDr. Bob Duke, talk about why tongue twisters are so effective, and why rhymes are so attractive.

As it turns out, the structure of a syllable lends itself to our linguistic foibles, but it's more than that.  So much of how language works in the brain is automatized, and so when we focus on how we form sentences and words, we mess up what we are actually trying to say.

Rhymes are a little different. Rhymes work because our brains love to predict what is going to happen next. When sounds and word patterns are familiar to us, we tend to like them more.

In addition, when we're really paying attention to what we are listening to, and predicting what is going to come next, we remember better what we are listening to. Therefore, you're more likely to be able to recall poems and rhymes from your youth, when other things may elude you.

Rebecca McInroy is an award-winning show creator, host, and executive producer for KUT, KUTX, and KUT.ORG.
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