Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 744–751 | Cite as

SayWhen: An automated method for high-accuracy speech onset detection



Many researchers across many experimental domains utilize the latency of spoken responses as a dependent measure. These measurements are typically made using a voice key, an electronic device that monitors the amplitude of a voice signal, and detects when a predetermined threshold is crossed. Unfortunately, voice keys have been repeatedly shown to be alarmingly errorful and biased in accurately detecting speech onset latencies. We present SayWhen—an easy-to-use software system for offline speech onset latency measurement that (1) automatically detects speech onset latencies with high accuracy, well beyond voice key performance, (2) automatically detects and flags a subset of trials most likely to have mismeasured onsets, for optional manual checking, and (3) implements a graphical user interface that greatly speeds and facilitates the checking and correction of this flagged subset of trials. This automatic-plus-selective-checking method approaches the gold standard performance of full manual coding in a small fraction of the time.


Speech Signal Onset Detection Human Attention Scanning Window Candidate Signal Detection 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and BehaviourMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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