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J Acoust Soc Am. 1995 Jan;97(1):553-62.

Mapping the perceptual magnet effect for speech using signal detection theory and multidimensional scaling.

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  • 1Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.

Abstract

Recent experiments have demonstrated that the category goodness of speech sounds strongly influences perception in both adult and infants [Kuhl, Percept. Psychophys. 50, 93-107 (1991); Kuhl et al., Science 255, 606-608 (1992)]. Stimuli judged as exceptionally good instances of phonetic categories (prototypes) make neighboring tokens in the vowel space seem more similar, exhibiting a perceptual magnet effect. Three experiments further examined the perceptual magnet effect in adults. Experiment 1 collected goodness and identification judgments for 13 variants of the vowel /i/. Experiment 2 used signal detection theory to assess the discrimination of these tokens using a bias-free measure (d'). Experiment 3 employed multidimensional scaling (MDS) to geometrically model the distortion of the perceptual space due to the magnet effect. The results demonstrated a strong relationship between category goodness and discrimination. Vowel tokens receiving high goodness ratings in experiment 1 were more difficult to discriminate in experiment 2 and were more tightly clustered in the MDS solutions of experiment 3. These findings support the existence of a perceptual magnet effect, and may help explain some aspects of first language learning in infants and second language learning in adults.

PMID:
7860832
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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