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Cognition. 2008 Sep;108(3):804-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2008.04.004. Epub 2008 Jun 25.

Perception of speech reflects optimal use of probabilistic speech cues.

Author information

1
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA. mclayards@bcs.rochester.edu

Abstract

Listeners are exquisitely sensitive to fine-grained acoustic detail within phonetic categories for sounds and words. Here we show that this sensitivity is optimal given the probabilistic nature of speech cues. We manipulated the probability distribution of one probabilistic cue, voice onset time (VOT), which differentiates word initial labial stops in English (e.g., "beach" and "peach"). Participants categorized words from distributions of VOT with wide or narrow variances. Uncertainty about word identity was measured by four-alternative forced-choice judgments and by the probability of looks to pictures. Both measures closely reflected the posterior probability of the word given the likelihood distributions of VOT, suggesting that listeners are sensitive to these distributions.

PMID:
18582855
PMCID:
PMC2582186
DOI:
10.1016/j.cognition.2008.04.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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