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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Acoustic context effects in speech perception

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Abstract The extreme acoustic variability of speech is well established, which makes the proficiency of human speech perception all the more impressive. Speech perception, like perception in any modality, is relative to context, and this provides a means to normalize the acoustic variability in the speech signal. Acoustic context effects in speech perception have been widely documented, but a clear understanding of how these effects relate to each other across stimuli, timescales, and acoustic domains is lacking. Here we review the influences that spectral context, temporal context, and spectrotemporal context have on speech perception. Studies are organized in terms of whether the context precedes the target (forward effects) or follows it (backward effects), and whether the context is adjacent to the target (proximal) or temporally removed from it (distal). Special cases where proximal and distal contexts have competing influences on perception are also considered. Across studies, a common theme emerges: acoustic differences between contexts and targets are perceptually magnified, producing contrast effects that facilitate perception of target sounds and words. This indicates enhanced sensitivity to changes in the acoustic environment, which maximizes the amount of potential information that can be transmitted to the perceiver. This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics
Acoustic context effects in speech perception. Contexts can be temporally adjacent to the target speech sound (proximal) or temporally nonadjacent to the target (distal). Contexts that precede the target in time are forward effects; contexts that follow the target are backward effects. These combinations of context timescales and directions apply equally to spectral context effects and temporal context effects in speech perception
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Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain
Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics

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