Generalization in perceptual learning for speech
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Lexical context strongly influences listeners’ identification of ambiguous sounds. For example, a sound midway between /f/ and /s/ is reported as /f/ in “sheri_’” but as /s/ in “Pari_.” Norris, McQueen, and Cutler (2003) have demonstrated that after hearing such lexically determined phonemes, listeners expand their phonemic categories to include more ambiguous tokens than before. We tested whether listeners adjust their phonemic categories for a specific speaker: Do listeners learn a particular speaker’s “accent”? Similarly, we examined whether perceptual learning is specific to the particular ambiguous phonemes that listeners hear, or whether the adjustments generalize to related sounds. Participants heard ambiguous /d/ or /t/ phonemes during a lexical decision task. They then categorized sounds on /d/-/t/ and /b/-/p/ continua, either in the same voice that they had heard for lexical decision, or in a different voice. Perceptual learning generalized across both speaker and test continua: Changes in perceptual representations are robust and broadly tuned.
KeywordsLexical Decision Lexical Decision Task Perceptual Learning Critical Item Critical Word
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