Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 493–507 | Cite as

The role of attentional abilities in lexically guided perceptual learning by older listeners

  • Odette Scharenborg
  • Andrea Weber
  • Esther Janse


This study investigates two variables that may modify lexically guided perceptual learning: individual hearing sensitivity and attentional abilities. Older Dutch listeners (aged 60+ years, varying from good hearing to mild-to-moderate high-frequency hearing loss) were tested on a lexically guided perceptual learning task using the contrast [f]-[s]. This contrast mainly differentiates between the two consonants in the higher frequencies, and thus is supposedly challenging for listeners with hearing loss. The analyses showed that older listeners generally engage in lexically guided perceptual learning. Hearing loss and selective attention did not modify perceptual learning in our participant sample, while attention-switching control did: listeners with poorer attention-switching control showed a stronger perceptual learning effect. We postulate that listeners with better attention-switching control may, in general, rely more strongly on bottom-up acoustic information compared to listeners with poorer attention-switching control, making them in turn less susceptible to lexically guided perceptual learning. Our results, moreover, clearly show that lexically guided perceptual learning is not lost when acoustic processing is less accurate.


Perceptual learning Speech perception Attention Aging Individual differences 


Author Note

This research was carried out while O.S. and A.W. were at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The research by O.S. was sponsored by the Max Planck International Research Network on Aging. O.S. is now supported by a Vidi-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The research by E.J. is supported by a (separate) Vidi-grant from NWO. The research by A.W. was funded by the Max Planck Society, Munich, Germany. A.W. is now at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. We thank the student-assistants of the Adaptive Listening Group of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Willemijn van den Berg for assistance in preparing and running these experiments, and Marijt Witteman for recording the stimuli.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Odette Scharenborg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrea Weber
    • 3
    • 2
  • Esther Janse
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Language StudiesRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and BehaviourRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute for PsycholinguisticsNijmegenThe Netherlands

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