The Nature of Phoneme Representation in Spoken Word Recognition

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Four experiments used the psychological refractory period logic to examine whether integration of multiple sources of phonemic information has a decisional locus. All experiments made use of a dual-task paradigm in which participants made forced-choice color categorization (Task 1) and phoneme categorization (Task 2) decisions at varying stimulus onset asynchronies. In Experiment 1, Task 2 difficulty was manipulated using words containing matching or mismatching coarticulatory cues to the final consonant. The results showed that difficulty and onset asynchrony combined in an underadditive way, suggesting that the phonemic mismatch was resolved prior to a central decisional bottleneck. Similar results were found in Experiment 2 using nonwords. In Experiment 3, the manipulation of task difficulty involved lexical status, which once again revealed an underadditive pattern of response times. Finally, Experiment 4 compared this prebottleneck variable with a decisional variable: response key bias. The latter showed an additive pattern of responses. The experiments show that resolution of phonemic ambiguity can take advantage of cognitive slack time at short asynchronies, indicating that phonemic integration takes place at a relatively early stage of spoken word recognition.

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