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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1997 Dec;23(6):1665-79.

On prototypes and phonetic categories: a critical assessment of the perceptual magnet effect in speech perception.

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Ameritech, Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60196, USA.


According to P. K. Kuhl (1991), a perceptual magnet effect occurs when discrimination accuracy is lower among better instances of a phonetic category than among poorer instances. Three experiments examined the perceptual magnet effect for the vowel /i/. In Experiment 1, participants rated some examples of /i/ as better instances of the category than others. In Experiment 2, no perceptual magnet effect was observed with materials based on Kuhl's tokens of /i/ or with items normed for each participant. In Experiment 3, participants labeled the vowels developed from Kuhl's test set. Many of the vowels in the nonprototype /i/ condition were not categorized as /i/s. This finding suggests that the comparisons obtained in Kuhl's original study spanned different phonetic categories.

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