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Divide and conquer: How perceptual contrast sensitivity and perceptual learning cooperate in reducing input variation in speech perception

Sjerps, M. J., & Reinisch, E. (2015). Divide and conquer: How perceptual contrast sensitivity and perceptual learning cooperate in reducing input variation in speech perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 41(3), 710-722. doi:10.1037/a0039028.
Listeners have to overcome variability of the speech signal that can arise, for example, because of differences in room acoustics, differences in speakers’ vocal tract properties, or idiosyncrasies in pronunciation. Two mechanisms that are involved in resolving such variation are perceptually contrastive effects that arise from surrounding acoustic context and lexically guided perceptual learning. Although both processes have been studied in great detail, little attention has been paid to how they operate relative to each other in speech perception. The present study set out to address this issue. The carrier parts of exposure stimuli of a classical perceptual learning experiment were spectrally filtered such that the acoustically ambiguous final fricatives sounded relatively more like the lexically intended sound (Experiment 1) or the alternative (Experiment 2). Perceptual learning was found only in the latter case. The findings show that perceptual contrast effects precede lexically guided perceptual learning, at least in terms of temporal order, and potentially in terms of cognitive processing levels as well
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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