Meet David Ludden, a psychologist who focuses on the human language.

Good afternoon readers,

I hope you all have been well! It’s my pleasure to introduce you to David Ludden, the author of “The Psychology of Language: An Integrated Approach”. He graduated from the University of Iowa, but he loves travelling. He’s spent extended periods of time in East Asia while working in Japan and China. His work is focused on language, and how language intimately affects our lives and relationships. Today he’ll be discussing his articles and research. Let’s get started!

1. Let’s start this interview off easy with a general question: What sparked your desire to become a psychologist?

“I have always been interested in languages, and for my undergraduate degree I majored in French and German. I then completed a master’s degree in linguistics, and I started working on my Ph.D. in linguistics as well. Then I took an elective course in the psychology department called “The Psychology of Language,” and I was hooked. I transferred to the psychology department and completed my Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, specializing in psycholinguistics. This was my entry into psychology, but I really enjoy reading the literature across all fields of psychology. I really enjoy learning about how humans think and why they behave the way they do.”

2. Your main interest is in the psychology of language. I’m curious to know about your language abilities! How many different languages do you speak?

“My bachelor’s degree is in French and German, and I spent some time in countries where those languages are spoken. But my reading is much better than my speaking. I lived in Japan for eight years, and I was pretty conversant. I had friends that I only spoke Japanese with. But it’s been more than twenty years since I left Japan, so my speaking ability has gotten pretty rusty. Finally, my wife is Chinese, and over many extended visits to China I’ve picked up enough Chinese to communicate with my in-laws. They’re used to my funny way of speaking, and they’ve learned to talk slowly and clearly to me so I can understand them.”

3. I understand you have a published book called “The Psychology of Languages: An Integrated Approach” Do you plan on publishing more books in the future?

“Right now I’m working on A History of Modern Psychology. I use my blog “Talking Apes” to explore new ideas. My posts on communication in relationships have been quite popular. So who knows? Maybe a book on that topic will be my next project.”

4. On the topic of ‘Talking Apes’, why is it that apes can’t speak but humans can?

“Humans are apes that talk, hence the title of my blog, “Talking Apes.” One reason other apes can’t talk is that their mouth and throat are shaped somewhat differently from ours, so they can’t make the full range of speech sounds that we can. All efforts to teach apes to speak have failed. However, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas have the same manual dexterity as humans, and if you raise them in a lab with a lot of human interaction, they can learn a few hundred signs from a signed language like ASL (American Sign Language). These “language-trained” apes plateau at about the level of an 18-month-old human child.”

5. Is there a difference between sleep talking and regular talking while awake?

‘Language isn’t just a means of communicating with other people, it’s also a powerful tool for thinking. We spend most of our waking hours talking silently to ourselves as we solve problems and make decisions. We don’t really know why some people sometimes talk in their sleep. It could be they’re dreaming and having a conversation in that dream. Sleep talking is a hard area to do research on.”

6. Speaking about your research seems to come quite naturally to you. It almost flows! Can you tell me about the academic psychology called “flow”?

“Flow is a state of focused attention that we achieve when we are doing something we are really good at and enjoy doing. You lose all sense of time, and rather than focusing on yourself, you’re focused on the activity of the moment. Athletes can get into a flow state when they’re playing their sport, and musicians when they’re performing. I sometimes get into a flow state when I’m writing, and ideas come to mind as quickly as I can type them out.”

7. While I was reading your post on, I realized there were a number of articles regarding relationships. Were these based on your personal experiences?

“Traditional psycholinguistics focuses on how the individual processes language in speaking, listening, reading, and writing tasks. But as I was working on my book The Psychology of Language, I began to think about the importance of social relationships. If we weren’t social animals, we wouldn’t need language. So these days I think a lot more about the social aspects of communication and language use. My blog posts are always based on journal articles I’ve recently read. So the topic and the scientific evidence provided in the post is from current research in psychology. But sometimes the examples I use are based on my personal experience, either in my own marriage or what I’ve seen in other couples.”



8. Here’s a personal question: What is the sweetest thing you’ve done for your wife?

“That’s a tough question, and I’m not sure what to say. So I asked my wife, and she said I do many sweet things for her, but it’s hard to say what the sweetest thing is that I’ve ever done for her. I think there’s a deeper truth here. Relationships aren’t built on the few big things you do for each other, but rather on the many small ways that you help each other out on a day-by-day basis. I think it was marriage expert John Gottman who said that all acts of kindness, no matter how big or how small, count the same in a relationship. In other words, frequent small gestures are far more important than a few grand gestures.”

9. I really enjoy that take on relationships. I also enjoy reading your articles on relationships. What is the best advice you can give our readers regarding relationships?

“My advice on relationships is twofold. First, be mindful of the way you talk and act when you’re with other people, and then carefully consider whether your words and actions are helping or hurting the relationship. Second, be sensitive to your partner’s style of responding. You need to find a way to communicate with that person without triggering their defenses, because once a person gets defensive they stop listening. So in the end, effective communication is all about talking in a way that the other person will be receptive to.”





Tell us what you think about the interview in the comments below. If you have any authors you want us to interview, we would be happy to test our luck and see if we can get them here on! Leave their name or a link in the comments. 

Edited by Ariel S.

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  1. I decided to read this article because it involves two things I really enjoy: psychology and languages. I was not even aware that there was a field of study to link these two subjects together but it makes so much sense to because language is such a beautiful and complicated thing. I was also captivated when he spoke about “Talking Apes” because that related to a course I took in college about Human Evolution and I am now interested in learning more about this class. I have a language minor and I checked and my college actually has a psychology of language course! Because of this article, I am planning on taking that course in the coming semester. Thank you for the interesting information and continue inspiring people with your knowledge!

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