Cutler, A., Van Ooijen, B., Norris, D., & Sanchez-Casas, R. (1996). Speeded detection of vowels: A cross-linguistic study. Perception and Psychophysics, 58, 807-822. Retrieved from http://www.psychonomic.org/search/view.cgi?id=430.
In four experiments, listeners’ response times to detect vowel targets in spoken input were measured. The first three experiments were conducted in English. In two, one using real words and the other, nonwords, detection accuracy was low, targets in initial syllables were detected more slowly than targets in final syllables, and both response time and missed-response rate were inversely correlated with vowel duration. In a third experiment, the speech context for some subjects included all English vowels, while for others, only five relatively distinct vowels occurred. This manipulation had essentially no effect, and the same response pattern was again observed. A fourth experiment, conducted in Spanish, replicated the results in the first three experiments, except that miss rate was here unrelated to vowel duration. We propose that listeners’ responses to vowel targets in naturally spoken input are effectively cautious, reflecting realistic appreciation of vowel variability in natural context.