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Evidence for precategorical extrinsic vowel normalization

Sjerps, M. J., McQueen, J. M., & Mitterer, H. (2013). Evidence for precategorical extrinsic vowel normalization. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 75, 576-587. doi:10.3758/s13414-012-0408-7.
Three experiments investigated whether extrinsic vowel normalization takes place largely at a categorical or a precategorical level of processing. Traditional vowel normalization effects in categorization were replicated in Experiment 1: Vowels taken from an [ɪ]-[ε] continuum were more often interpreted as /ɪ/ (which has a low first formant, F (1)) when the vowels were heard in contexts that had a raised F (1) than when the contexts had a lowered F (1). This was established with contexts that consisted of only two syllables. These short contexts were necessary for Experiment 2, a discrimination task that encouraged listeners to focus on the perceptual properties of vowels at a precategorical level. Vowel normalization was again found: Ambiguous vowels were more easily discriminated from an endpoint [ε] than from an endpoint [ɪ] in a high-F (1) context, whereas the opposite was true in a low-F (1) context. Experiment 3 measured discriminability between pairs of steps along the [ɪ]-[ε] continuum. Contextual influences were again found, but without discrimination peaks, contrary to what was predicted from the same participants' categorization behavior. Extrinsic vowel normalization therefore appears to be a process that takes place at least in part at a precategorical processing level.
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