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No delays in application of perceptual learning in speech recognition: Evidence from eye tracking

Mitterer, H., & Reinisch, E. (2013). No delays in application of perceptual learning in speech recognition: Evidence from eye tracking. Journal of Memory and Language, 69(4), 527-545. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2013.07.002.
Three eye-tracking experiments tested at what processing stage lexically-guided retuning of a fricative contrast affects perception. One group of participants heard an ambiguous fricative between /s/ and /f/ replace /s/ in s-final words, the other group heard the same ambiguous fricative replacing /f/ in f-final words. In a test phase, both groups of participants heard a range of ambiguous fricatives at the end of Dutch minimal pairs (e.g., roos-roof, ‘rose’-‘robbery’). Participants who heard the ambiguous fricative replacing /f/ during exposure chose at test the f-final words more often than the other participants. During this test-phase, eye-tracking data showed that the effect of exposure exerted itself as soon as it could possibly have occurred, 200 ms after the onset of the fricative. This was at the same time as the onset of the effect of the fricative itself, showing that the perception of the fricative is changed by perceptual learning at an early level. Results converged in a time-window analysis and a Jackknife procedure testing the time at which effects reached a given proportion of their maxima. This indicates that perceptual learning affects early stages of speech processing, and supports the conclusion that perceptual learning is indeed perceptual rather than post-perceptual.
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