A British study links grammatical errors to signs of stress

A British study links grammatical errors to signs of stress

Grammatical oddities are not just a passing irritation. Unpublished research from the UK reveals that hearing grammatical errors can trigger signs of physical stress.

The study, published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics, brought together a group of researchers from the University of Birmingham, who evaluated the effects of grammatical errors on the heart rate variability (HRV) of individuals exposed to such errors in sound.

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A British study links grammatical errors to signs of stress

A British study links grammatical errors to signs of stress

The researchers analyzed HRV, a cardiovascular measure that records the time intervals between successive heartbeats.

According to Dagmar Divjak, a co-author of the study, when an individual is relaxed, the intervals between heartbeats tend to be variable, but they become more regular when a person is stressed.

How do grammatical errors affect heart rate?

The study titled “Physiological and cognitive behavioral responses: heart rate variability as an indicator of linguistic knowledge” revealed a significant reduction in heart rate in response to grammatical errors.

“The decrease in heart rate indicates that the more errors a person hears, the more irregular their heartbeat becomes — an indicator of stress,” Divjak explains.

The researchers monitored the participants’ heart rates using a sensor attached to the middle finger of each participant’s non-dominant hand.

Throughout the research period, the 41 participants listened to 40 English audio samples, half of which contained grammatical errors.

Is the relationship between grammatical errors and stress relevant to linguistic research?

In addition to Divjak, Professors Petar Melin and Hui Sun were also involved in the research, with the trio exploring the relationship between physiology and cognition.

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The primary focus was to expand the relationship between linguistic perception and the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for controlling heart rate. According to the authors, this relationship has been little observed.

As much as this is a neglected area, the researchers were able to provide “the first evidence suggesting that HRV can be used as an indicator of implicit linguistic knowledge.”

They believe that such a study could make relevant contributions to the exploration of individuals’ brain health.

Grammatical errors and mental health

“Accurate assessment of an individual’s language abilities, regardless of age and physical or cognitive abilities, is critical for many cognition-related issues, including brain health,” experts say.

They suggest that the practice of exposing people to grammatical errors may be a useful tool for assessing individuals’ mental health.

The findings of this innovative study have opened up a range of possibilities for future research, establishing a potential link between linguistics and physical and mental health.

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About the Author: Camelia Kirk

"Friendly zombie guru. Avid pop culture scholar. Freelance travel geek. Wannabe troublemaker. Coffee specialist."

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