PI Dr. Matthew Masapollo recently co-organizing a special symposium with Dr. Linda Polka (McGill), entitled, “Universal biases and experiential influences on phonetic perception,” at the 178 Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Diego, CA (12/2/19-12/7/19). This session examined recent research on the nature and development of phonetic perception, focusing on universal biases and experience-dependent perceptual changes that take place both in infancy and throughout life and speculated about underlying mechanisms and processes. There was an impressive speaker line-up, including Drs. Cathi Best (MARCS Auditory Labs) and Christina Zhao (UW, I-LABS)!
Dr. Masapollo’s talk was entitled, “Acoustic versus articulatory accounts of asymmetries in vowel perception.”
Abstract: Most research on cross-language speech perception has concentrated on how and when the discrimination and categorization of speech sounds change with specific linguistic experience. It has become increasingly clear, however, that there are also universal biases in place early in development that guide and constrain how perceivers from diverse linguistic backgrounds decode the speech signal. In the domain of vowel perception, it is now known that perceivers (both adult and infant) are universally biased toward articulatorily and acoustically extreme vowels. This vowel bias is often demonstrated in discrimination tasks as a directional asymmetry: perceivers perform better when discriminating changes from less to more peripheral vowels compared to the reverse. In this talk, I will discuss evidence suggesting that the processes underlying these asymmetries operate on articulatory information, rather than on acoustic information per se. I will begin with findings from cross-language experiments with adults indicating that asymmetries occur with vowels presented in either the auditory or the visual modality, regardless of native language. I will then present findings indicating that analogous asymmetries emerge using schematic non-speech visual analogs of vocalic gestures, but only if the visual displays depict both lip-motion and configural information, consistent with an articulatory account of asymmetries.