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Cogn Sci. 2011 Sep-Oct;35(7):1390-405. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01192.x. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Learning foreign sounds in an alien world: videogame training improves non-native speech categorization.

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Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Although speech categories are defined by multiple acoustic dimensions, some are perceptually weighted more than others and there are residual effects of native-language weightings in non-native speech perception. Recent research on nonlinguistic sound category learning suggests that the distribution characteristics of experienced sounds influence perceptual cue weights: Increasing variability across a dimension leads listeners to rely upon it less in subsequent category learning (Holt & Lotto, 2006). The present experiment investigated the implications of this among native Japanese learning English /r/-/l/ categories. Training was accomplished using a videogame paradigm that emphasizes associations among sound categories, visual information, and players' responses to videogame characters rather than overt categorization or explicit feedback. Subjects who played the game for 2.5h across 5 days exhibited improvements in /r/-/l/ perception on par with 2-4 weeks of explicit categorization training in previous research and exhibited a shift toward more native-like perceptual cue weights.

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