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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2018 Jul;80(5):1300-1310. doi: 10.3758/s13414-018-1488-9.

Perceptual sensitivity to spectral properties of earlier sounds during speech categorization.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, 317 Life Sciences Building, Louisville, KY, 40292, USA. christian.stilp@louisville.edu.
2
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, 317 Life Sciences Building, Louisville, KY, 40292, USA.

Abstract

Speech perception is heavily influenced by surrounding sounds. When spectral properties differ between earlier (context) and later (target) sounds, this can produce spectral contrast effects (SCEs) that bias perception of later sounds. For example, when context sounds have more energy in low-F1 frequency regions, listeners report more high-F1 responses to a target vowel, and vice versa. SCEs have been reported using various approaches for a wide range of stimuli, but most often, large spectral peaks were added to the context to bias speech categorization. This obscures the lower limit of perceptual sensitivity to spectral properties of earlier sounds, i.e., when SCEs begin to bias speech categorization. Listeners categorized vowels (/ɪ/-/ɛ/, Experiment 1) or consonants (/d/-/g/, Experiment 2) following a context sentence with little spectral amplification (+1 to +4 dB) in frequency regions known to produce SCEs. In both experiments, +3 and +4 dB amplification in key frequency regions of the context produced SCEs, but lesser amplification was insufficient to bias performance. This establishes a lower limit of perceptual sensitivity where spectral differences across sounds can bias subsequent speech categorization. These results are consistent with proposed adaptation-based mechanisms that potentially underlie SCEs in auditory perception.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:

Recent sounds can change what speech sounds we hear later. This can occur when the average frequency composition of earlier sounds differs from that of later sounds, biasing how they are perceived. These "spectral contrast effects" are widely observed when sounds' frequency compositions differ substantially. We reveal the lower limit of these effects, as +3 dB amplification of key frequency regions in earlier sounds was enough to bias categorization of the following vowel or consonant sound. Speech categorization being biased by very small spectral differences across sounds suggests that spectral contrast effects occur frequently in everyday speech perception.

KEYWORDS:

Perceptual categorization and identification; Psychoacoustics; Speech perception

PMID:
29492759
DOI:
10.3758/s13414-018-1488-9
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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