Eye movements reveal fast, voice-specific priming

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2016 Mar;145(3):314-37. doi: 10.1037/xge0000135. Epub 2016 Jan 4.


In spoken word perception, voice specificity effects are well-documented: When people hear repeated words in some task, performance is generally better when repeated items are presented in their originally heard voices, relative to changed voices. A key theoretical question about voice specificity effects concerns their time-course: Some studies suggest that episodic traces exert their influence late in lexical processing (the time-course hypothesis; McLennan & Luce, 2005), whereas others suggest that episodic traces influence immediate, online processing. We report 2 eye-tracking studies investigating the time-course of voice-specific priming within and across cognitive tasks. In Experiment 1, participants performed modified lexical decision or semantic classification to words spoken by 4 speakers. The tasks required participants to click a red "x" or a blue "+" located randomly within separate visual half-fields, necessitating trial-by-trial visual search with consistent half-field response mapping. After a break, participants completed a second block with new and repeated items, half spoken in changed voices. Voice effects were robust very early, appearing in saccade initiation times. Experiment 2 replicated this pattern while changing tasks across blocks, ruling out a response priming account. In the General Discussion, we address the time-course hypothesis, focusing on the challenge it presents for empirical disconfirmation, and highlighting the broad importance of indexical effects, beyond studies of priming.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Repetition Priming / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology
  • Voice / physiology*
  • Young Adult