Changing only the probability that spoken words will be distorted changes how they are recognized
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
An eye-tracking experiment examined contextual flexibility in speech processing in response to distortions in spoken input. Dutch participants heard Dutch sentences containing critical words and saw four-picture displays. The name of one picture either had the same onset phonemes as the critical word or had a different first phoneme and rhymed. Participants fixated on onset-overlap more than rhyme-overlap pictures, but this tendency varied with speech quality. Relative to a baseline with
... aseline with noise-free sentences, participants looked less at onset-overlap and more at rhyme-overlap pictures when phonemes in the sentences (but not in the critical words) were replaced by noises like those heard on a badly tuned AM radio. The position of the noises (word-initial or word-medial) had no effect. Noises elsewhere in the sentences apparently made evidence about the critical word less reliable: Listeners became less confident of having heard the onset-overlap name but also less sure of having not heard the rhyme-overlap name. The same acoustic information has different effects on spoken-word recognition as the probability of distortion changes.