The role of learning in interpreting speech cues

In a project with James McQueen we have investigated how listeners learn to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of a particular speaker, a process termed “perceptual learning”. For example, consider a speaker who lisps, and thus produces an ambiguous sound between /f/ and /s/ when they intend to say /s/. It turns out that listeners quickly learn to remap that ambiguous sound to the intended category. We demonstrated that such remapped instances are interpreted almost as well as regular instances of the intended phoneme. Moreover, Dutch listeners (who are familiar with English) also readily learn to interpret the non-native theta (the “th” sound in “thing”) as Dutch /f/ or /s/. see publication here