Individual variability as a window on production-perception interactions in speech motor control

Franken, M. K., Acheson, D. J., McQueen, J. M., Eisner, F., & Hagoort, P. (2017). Individual variability as a window on production-perception interactions in speech motor control. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 142(4), 2007-2018. doi:10.1121/1.5006899.
An important part of understanding speech motor control consists of capturing the
interaction between speech production and speech perception. This study tests a
prediction of theoretical frameworks that have tried to account for these interactions: if
speech production targets are specified in auditory terms, individuals with better
auditory acuity should have more precise speech targets, evidenced by decreased
within-phoneme variability and increased between-phoneme distance. A study was
carried out consisting of perception and production tasks in counterbalanced order.
Auditory acuity was assessed using an adaptive speech discrimination task, while
production variability was determined using a pseudo-word reading task. Analyses of
the production data were carried out to quantify average within-phoneme variability as
well as average between-phoneme contrasts. Results show that individuals not only
vary in their production and perceptual abilities, but that better discriminators have
more distinctive vowel production targets (that is, targets with less within-phoneme
variability and greater between-phoneme distances), confirming the initial hypothesis.
This association between speech production and perception did not depend on local
phoneme density in vowel space. This study suggests that better auditory acuity leads
to more precise speech production targets, which may be a consequence of auditory
feedback affecting speech production over time.
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