Show Details

Say What

April 4, 2006

Sometimes our mouths seem faster than our brains. One podcast listener asked why that is.


Say what? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Have you ever asked someone to repeat a question and then realized that you had understood it the first time after all? Well, James Lomuscio of Weston, Connecticut, wrote to ask why that happens.

We turned to cognitive psychologist Herb Clark of Stanford. He says that people can’t stand to have more than about a second’s pause in between question and response. So those who don’t understand a question within that time might ask "what?" But a moment later, they might grasp the question after all.

HERB CLARK (Stanford University):
And if that was the case they had the option of interrupting and going ahead and answering the question.

Do you have a science question? I said, do you have a science question? If so, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.