Oates’ theory of Reverse Speech: a critical examination
David Oates claims to have discovered a language phenomenon which he has labelled Reverse Speech (RS). According to Oates, during speech two messages are communicated simultaneously: one forwards and heard and responded to consciously, and the other (RS) in reverse and heard and responded to unconsciously. RS can allegedly be heard as clear, grammatical statements mixed in amongst gibberish.
The content of reversals is said to relate to the forward dialogue, and often accentuates the forward speech. It is also said to reveal unspoken thoughts which may be in contradiction to forward speech; therefore, it can be an effective tool to discover unspoken truths.
Oates conducted an experiment which produced results suggesting that untrained listeners are able to hear RS. This experiment was replicated by the authors and the results – as well as Oates’ many naïve claims regarding language – suggest that RS is illusory.