The marriage of perception and memory: creating two-way illusions with words and voices

Mem Cognit. 1999 Mar;27(2):328-38. doi: 10.3758/bf03211416.


By most theories of lexical access, idiosyncratic aspects of speech (such as voice details) are considered noise and are filtered in perception. However, episodic theories suggest that perceptual details are stored in memory and mediate later perception. By this view, perception and memory are intimately linked. The present investigation tested this hypothesis by creating symmetric illusions, using words and voices. In two experiments, listeners gave reduced noise estimates to previously heard words, but only when the original voices were preserved. Conversely, in two recognition memory experiments, listeners gave increased old responses to words (or voices) presented in relatively soft background noise. The data suggest that memory can be mistaken for perceptual fluency, and perceptual fluency can be mistaken for memory. The data also underscore the role of detailed episodes in lexical access.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Noise / adverse effects
  • Vocabulary*
  • Voice / physiology*