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Interleaved lexical and audiovisual information can retune phoneme boundaries

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To adapt to situations in which speech perception is difficult, listeners can adjust boundaries between phoneme categories using perceptual learning. Such adjustments can draw on lexical information in surrounding speech, or on visual cues via speech-reading. In the present study, listeners proved they were able to flexibly adjust the boundary between two plosive/stop consonants, /p/-/t/, using both lexical and speech-reading information and given the same experimental design for both cue types. Videos of a speaker pronouncing pseudo-words and audio recordings of Dutch words were presented in alternating blocks of either stimulus type. Listeners were able to switch between cues to adjust phoneme boundaries, and resulting effects were comparable to results from listeners receiving only a single source of information. Overall, audiovisual cues (i.e., the videos) produced the stronger effects, commensurate with their applicability for adapting to noisy environments. Lexical cues were able to induce effects with fewer exposure stimuli and a changing phoneme bias, in a design unlike most prior studies of lexical retuning. While lexical retuning effects were relatively weaker compared to audiovisual recalibration, this discrepancy could reflect how lexical retuning may be more suitable for adapting to speakers than to environments. Nonetheless, the presence of the lexical retuning effects suggests that it may be invoked at a faster rate than previously seen. In general, this technique has further illuminated the robustness of adaptability in speech perception, and offers the potential to enable further comparisons across differing forms of perceptual learning.

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We acknowledge financial support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research gravity program Language in Interaction.

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Correspondence to Shruti Ullas.

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Ullas, S., Formisano, E., Eisner, F. et al. Interleaved lexical and audiovisual information can retune phoneme boundaries. Atten Percept Psychophys (2020).

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  • Phoneme boundary
  • Recalibration
  • Perceptual retuning
  • Lexical
  • Audiovisual