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Foreign accent strength and listener familiarity with an accent co-determine speed of perceptual adaptation

Witteman, M. J., Weber, A., & McQueen, J. M. (2013). Foreign accent strength and listener familiarity with an accent co-determine speed of perceptual adaptation. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 75, 537-556. doi:10.3758/s13414-012-0404-y.
We investigated how the strength of a foreign accent and varying types of experience with foreign-accented speech influence the recognition of accented words. In Experiment 1, native Dutch listeners with limited or extensive prior experience with German-accented Dutch completed a cross-modal priming experiment with strongly, medium, and weakly accented words. Participants with limited experience were primed by the medium and weakly accented words, but not by the strongly accented words. Participants with extensive experience were primed by all accent types. In Experiments 2 and 3, Dutch listeners with limited experience listened to a short story before doing the cross-modal priming task. In Experiment 2, the story was spoken by the priming task speaker and either contained strongly accented words or did not. Strongly accented exposure led to immediate priming by novel strongly accented words, while exposure to the speaker without strongly accented tokens led to priming only in the experiment’s second half. In Experiment 3, listeners listened to the story with strongly accented words spoken by a different German-accented speaker. Listeners were primed by the strongly accented words, but again only in the experiment’s second half. Together, these results show that adaptation to foreign-accented speech is rapid but depends on accent strength and on listener familiarity with those strongly accented words.
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