P* Reading Group, 11/29

In this week’s P* Reading Group on Wednesday (Nov. 29) 11am-12pm in Room 117, Sarah and Donghyun will give practice talks for their upcoming ASA presentations, entitled “Inhibitory and Lexical Frequency Effects in Younger and Older Adults’ Spoken Word Recognition” and “Individual differences in perceptual adaptation to phonetic categories: Categorization gradiency and cognitive abilities.” Their abstracts are below. Everyone is welcome!

Inhibitory and Lexical Frequency Effects in Younger and Older Adults’ Spoken Word Recognition
Sarah Colby
Older adults are known to have more difficulty recognizing words with dense phonological neighbourhoods (Sommers & Danielson, 1999), suggesting an increased role of inhibition in older adults’ spoken word recognition. Revill & Spieler (2012) found that older adults are particularly susceptible to frequency effects, and will look more to high frequency items compared to younger adults. We aim to replicate and extend the findings of Revill & Spieler (2012) by investigating the role of inhibition along with frequency for resolving lexical competition in both older and younger adults. Older (n=16) and younger (n=18) adults completed a visual word paradigm eyetracking task that used high and low frequency targets paired with competitors of opposing frequency, and a Simon task as a measure of inhibition. We find that older adults with poorer inhibition are more distracted by competitors than those with better inhibition and younger adults. This effect is larger for high frequency competitors compared to low. These results have implications for the changing role of inhibition in resolving lexical competition across the adult lifespan and support the idea that decreased inhibition in older adults contributes to increased lexical competition and stronger frequency effects in word recognition.

Individual differences in perceptual adaptation to phonetic categories: Categorization gradiency and cognitive abilities
Donghyun Kim
We examine whether listeners flexibly adapt to unfamiliar speech patterns such as those encountered in foreign-accented English vowels. In these cases, the relative informativity of acoustic dimensions (spectral quality vs. duration) can be changed such that the most informative dimension (spectral quality) is no longer informative, but the role of the secondary cue (duration) is enhanced. We further test whether listeners’ adaptive strategies are related to individual differences in utilizations of secondary cues (measured by categorization gradiency) and cognitive abilities. Native English listeners (N=36) listened to continuum of vowels /ɛ/ and /æ/ (as in head and had) varying spectral and duration values to complete a perceptual adaptation task, a visual analogue scaling (VAS) task, and were given cognitive ability tasks examining executive function capacities. Results showed that listeners mostly used spectral quality to signal vowel category at baseline, but rapidly adapted by up-weighting reliance on duration when spectral quality was no longer informative. The VAS task showed substantial individual differences in categorization gradiency with more gradient listeners using a secondary cue more, but gradiency was not linked to degree of adaptation. Finally, results of cognitive ability tasks revealed that individual differences in inhibitory control, but not the other cognitive abilities, correlated with the amount of perceptual adaptation.

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