BLN Spotlight

buckeye language network

The BLN community is full of amazing people…. Let’s shine a light on:

heather daly


Heather Daly

PhD student



What do you do?

I am a Cognitive Psychology graduate student in Mark Pitt’s Language Perception Lab. My research looks at the mechanisms underlying auditory selective attention to speech and the factors driving individual differences in those mechanismsMore specifically, I’ve been looking at two mechanisms that guide auditory attention: enhancement, which boosts the auditory signal of interest, and suppression, which attenuates distracting signals.  

What is the most exciting thing you’re working on now?

I’m currently working on trying to behaviorally dissociate these two mechanisms, which is a challenge because both mechanisms lead to the same behavioral outcome of better attention! Our work this semester is showing some major differences between mechanisms regarding the time course of effects and sensitivity to statistical regularities. I’m very excited to continue investigating these differences to see if they might be the key to behaviorally demonstrating that auditory enhancement and suppression are indeed separable mechanisms.

What is the most interesting thing about studying language the way you do?
When I first started studying attention in a language perception lab I kind of felt like my research didn’t really fit in. Fortunately the longer I’ve been here and the more I learn about other areas of language research, the more I see how my work investigating attention to speech signals is a crucial piece of the puzzle. It’s kind of impossible to understand language if you can’t isolate and attend to a particular speech signal!  
What’s your favorite thing about language?
I love how we’re so easily able to understand conversational speech even though the actual acoustic signal is such a mess. The interplay between the bottom-up signal and top-down knowledge is such an interesting dance and I think it’s SO COOL that we still have so much to learn about how our brains use all of this information to understand what someone is saying to us.

Who is your favorite language-oriented researcher (living or dead)?

I’ve always been fascinated by Erik Thiesson’s work on statistical learning and language.

If you could make every student at OSU know one thing about language, what would it be?

Language perception is more complicated than it seems! The fact that we’re generally able to easily understand what other people are saying is a result of coordinated processes in multiple brain areas, which makes language a challenging and exciting topic to study.

Why are you a member of the BLN?
One of my friends and former labmate, Hannah Shatzer, was an active member of the BLN who encouraged me to get involved even though I didn’t think my research fit in. I’m thankful that she did because I’ve been able to learn about the wide variety of language topics studied here at OSU, which in turn has helped me think more creatively about how auditory attention fits into the bigger picture of language perception.

Anything else you want to tell us?

If you’re an undergraduate student looking to get more involved in research about auditory attention to speech signals, then you should check out our lab website ( and send me an email! We bring in new research assistants every semester and are always looking for motivated students with an interest in language research.