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Older listeners' decreased flexibility in adjusting to changes in speech signal reliability

Bruggeman, L., & Janse, E. (2015). Older listeners' decreased flexibility in adjusting to changes in speech signal reliability. In M. Wolters, J. Linvingstone, B. Beattie, M. MacMahon, J. Stuart-Smith, & J. Scobbie (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2015). London: International Phonetic Association.
Under noise or speech reductions, young adult listeners flexibly adjust the parameters of lexical activation and competition to allow for speech signal unreliability. Consequently, mismatches in the input are treated more leniently such that lexical candidates are not immediately deactivated. Using eyetracking, we assessed whether this modulation of recognition dynamics also occurs for older listeners. Dutch participants (aged 60+) heard Dutch sentences containing a critical word while viewing displays of four line drawings. The name of one picture shared either onset or rhyme with the critical word (i.e., was a phonological competitor). Sentences were either clear and noise-free, or had several phonemes replaced by bursts of noise. A larger preference for onset competitors than for rhyme competitors was observed in both clear and noise conditions; performance did not alter across condition. This suggests that dynamic adjustment of spoken-word recognition parameters in response to noise is less available to older listeners.
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