The cause in a nutshell

cant trust your ears
Every day, we identify who is speaking and what they are saying with great confidence. But have you rigorously checked the reliability of your hearing? Phonetic science has. Confidence correlates poorly with accuracy.

Many problems in the handling of speech evidence stem from the law’s heavy reliance on the principle that people can hear with their own ears what is being said and who is saying it.

From the point of view of common knowledge, that seems so unquestionably true as to be barely worth stating.

However, many findings of phonetic science show that ears themselves are not nearly as reliable as we think they are.

Our everyday accuracy depends heavily on the fact we usually operate in predictable contexts.

In this section, we offer a few humorous but telling examples of well known ways in which people’s ears can be fooled – though the humour fades a little when you realise the same perceptual processes can make a guilty person seem innocent, or an innocent, guilty.

In case you missed it, you might like to start with our mind-blowing flagship video: Why we need Forensic Phonetics.

If you’ve done that, follow the red links at the bottom left of each of these pages – or select from the CAUSE menu above.

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