The temporal dynamics of ambiguity resolution: Evidence from spoken-word recognition

Dahan, D., & Gaskell, M. G. (2007). The temporal dynamics of ambiguity resolution: Evidence from spoken-word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 57(4), 483-501. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2007.01.001.
Two experiments examined the dynamics of lexical activation in spoken-word recognition. In both, the key materials were pairs of onset-matched picturable nouns varying in frequency. Pictures associated with these words, plus two distractor pictures were displayed. A gating task, in which participants identified the picture associated with gradually lengthening fragments of spoken words, examined the availability of discriminating cues in the speech waveforms for these pairs. There was a clear frequency bias in participants’ responses to short, ambiguous fragments, followed by a temporal window in which discriminating information gradually became available. A visual-world experiment examined speech contingent eye movements. Fixation analyses suggested that frequency influences lexical competition well beyond the point in the speech signal at which the spoken word has been fully discriminated from its competitor (as identified using gating). Taken together, these data support models in which the processing dynamics of lexical activation are a limiting factor on recognition speed, over and above the temporal unfolding of the speech signal.
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