Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 224-238

First online:

The specificity of perceptual learning in speech processing


We conducted four experiments to investigate the specificity of perceptual adjustments made to unusual speech sounds. Dutch listeners heard a female talker produce an ambiguous fricative [?] (between [f] and [s]) in [f]- or [s]-biased lexical contexts. Listeners with [f]-biased exposure (e.g., [witlo?]; fromwitlof, “chicory”;witlos is meaningless) subsequently categorized more sounds on an [ef]-[es] continuum as [f] than did listeners with [s]-biased exposure. This occurred when the continuum was based on the exposure talker’s speech (Experiment 1), and when the same test fricatives appeared after vowels spoken by novel female and male talkers (Experiments 1 and 2). When the continuum was made entirely from a novel talker’s speech, there was no exposure effect (Experiment 3) unless fricatives from that talker had been spliced into the exposure talker’s speech during exposure (Experiment 4). We conclude that perceptual learning about idiosyncratic speech is applied at a segmental level and is, under these exposure conditions, talker specific.