Does speech production influence speech perception?
When people speak, their tongues, lips and jaw perform incredible articulatory acrobatics that create complex acoustic signals. Surprisingly, listeners decode these signals with astonishing ease. Many have suggested that humans accomplish this speech perception feat by drawing upon experience acquired during speech production. That is, people use their knowledge of how they speak to understand what others are saying. If so, then the way that people speak should influence how they perceive others’ speech.
William Schuerman’s research revealed that the way people produce speech sounds, like vowels and consonants, can influence how they perceive similar sounds produced by others. Furthermore, experiments on speech intelligibility in noisy conditions revealed that people who speak in a similar way are more intelligible to each other. However, the experiments also revealed that an average talker is more understandable than a similar talker. These seemingly conflicting results actually fit with recent neurobiological models of speech perception that propose that different speech tasks recruit different networks in the brain. Overall, the research suggests that listeners combine their auditory experience of many different talkers in their community with their sensorimotor experience as a speech producer in order to accomplish the task of understanding what others are saying.