The benefit to speech intelligibility of hearing a familiar voice

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2020 Jun;26(2):236-247. doi: 10.1037/xap0000247. Epub 2019 Sep 16.


Previous experience with a voice can help listeners understand speech when a competing talker is present. Using the coordinate-response measure task (Bolia, Nelson, Ericson, & Simpson, 2000), Johnsrude et al. (2013) demonstrated that speech is more intelligible when either the target or competing (masking) talker is a long-term spouse than when both talkers are unfamiliar (termed familiar-target and familiar-masker benefits, respectively). To better understand how familiarity improves intelligibility, we measured the familiar-target and familiar-masker benefits in older and younger spouses using a more challenging matrix task, and compared the benefits listeners gain from spouses' and friends' voices. On each trial, participants heard two sentences from the Boston University Gerald (Kidd, Best, & Mason, 2008) corpus ("<name> <verb> <number> <adjective> <noun>") and reported words from the sentence beginning with a target name word. A familiar-masker benefit was not observed, but all groups showed a robust familiar-target benefit and its magnitude did not differ between spouses and friends. The familiar-target benefit was not influenced by relationship length (in the range of 1.5-52 years). Together, these results imply that the familiar-target benefit can develop from various types of relationships and has already reached a plateau around 1.5 years after meeting a new friend. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comprehension
  • Female
  • Hearing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Speech Intelligibility*
  • Voice*
  • Young Adult