seeing subtitles when people speak


tickertaping = die automatische und unwillkürliche Visualisierung von Wörtern, die beim Hören, Sprechen oder Denken wie Untertitel erscheinen.



“Hauw, Cohen and their colleagues have published several recent studies on the experiences of being a ticker taper. In one, they researched the potential benefits and drawbacks of TICKER TAPING … ticker tapers were faster and generally more accurate in three tasks involving spoken words than control participants who lacked this mental word-streaming ability.”

Emily Makowski — Scientific American (4th April 2024)

“How uncommon is TICKERTAPING? Prevalence and characteristics of seeing the words you hear (…) Tickertape experience is the subjective phenomenon of routinely visualizing the orthographic appearance of words that one hears, speaks, or thinks, like mental subtitles in the mind’s eye.”

Silje Holm, et al. — Cognitive Neuroscience (17th June 2015)

Did you

tickertaping (also ticker taping)

- the automatic and involuntary visualization of words that appear like subtitles when listening, speaking, or thinking

PubMed (National Library of Medicine)


“Ticker tape synesthesia”, the automatic and involuntary visualization of words that appear like subtitles when listening, speaking, or thinking, was first identified in the 1880s.

Functional MRI studies have found that in ticker tape synesthetes, certain brain regions involved in speech and text processing, like the visual word form area, show overactivation when listening to speech. This suggests ticker taping may result from hyperconnectivity between speech and reading networks in the brain.

Interestingly, studies on dyslexia have demonstrated reduced connectivity in these same brain areas. So while more research is needed, ticker tape synesthesia may be considered the opposite of dyslexia, with hyperconnectivity instead of underconnectivity.

The term "ticker tape" itself dates back to the late 19th century, when stock prices transmitted by telegraph were printed on long paper strips, which were torn into bits and thrown from buildings during parades.


Neurologists at the Paris Brain Institute, hope to uncover how we connect sounds, words, letters, and their meanings. To do this, they study people who transcribe the speech of others into text, automatically and involuntarily. Catchy tunes on the radio, sensational statements on the news, confidences of a friend, meowing of a cat… These sounds will appear to them as imaginary subtitles floating before their eyes.



The next time you listen to another speaker in a language you know well, try to imagine the words appearing as text in real-time in your mind’s eye. With practice you should be able to do this quite effortlessly.

Can this practice of tickertaping improve our memory and cognition? Why not give it a try and let us know what you think? We'd love to hear from you — just drop us a line: paulsmith.psa (at) gmail (dot) com

Helga & Paul Smith


- for ticking:

beating, chiming, clicking, cuckoo striking, drumming, hammering, heartbeating, marking rhythm, marking tempo, marking the beat, marking the time, metronomic beating, metronomic cadence, oscillating heartbeat, palpitating, pattering, percussive beating, periodic pulsating, pinging, pitter-patting, popping, pounding pulses, rapping, rattling, repetitive pulsating, rhythmic ticking, snapping, tapping, throbbing, tick-tocking, tolling

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation, say something like:

“A laptop sticker which reads ‘TICKER-TAPE’ is a good reminder to practice mental subtitling.”

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