Lexical information drives perceptual learning of distorted speech: evidence from the comprehension of noise-vocoded sentences

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2005 May;134(2):222-41. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.134.2.222.


Speech comprehension is resistant to acoustic distortion in the input, reflecting listeners' ability to adjust perceptual processes to match the speech input. For noise-vocoded sentences, a manipulation that removes spectral detail from speech, listeners' reporting improved from near 0% to 70% correct over 30 sentences (Experiment 1). Learning was enhanced if listeners heard distorted sentences while they knew the identity of the undistorted target (Experiments 2 and 3). Learning was absent when listeners were trained with nonword sentences (Experiments 4 and 5), although the meaning of the training sentences did not affect learning (Experiment 5). Perceptual learning of noise-vocoded speech depends on higher level information, consistent with top-down, lexically driven learning. Similar processes may facilitate comprehension of speech in an unfamiliar accent or following cochlear implantation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Perception*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Speech Perception*
  • Vocabulary*