Adaptive Plasticity in Speech Perception: Effects of External Information and Internal Predictions

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When listeners encounter speech under adverse listening conditions, adaptive adjustments in perception can improve comprehension over time. In some cases, these adaptive changes require the presence of external information that disambiguates the distorted speech signals, whereas in other cases mere exposure is sufficient. Both external (e.g., written feedback) and internal (e.g., prior word knowledge) sources of information can be used to generate predictions about the correct mapping of a distorted speech signal. We hypothesize that these predictions provide a basis for determining the discrepancy between the expected and actual speech signal that can be used to guide adaptive changes in perception. This study provides the first empirical investigation that manipulates external and internal factors through (a) the availability of explicit external disambiguating information via the presence or absence of postresponse orthographic information paired with a repetition of the degraded stimulus, and (b) the accuracy of internally generated predictions; an acoustic distortion is introduced either abruptly or incrementally. The results demonstrate that the impact of external information on adaptive plasticity is contingent upon whether the intelligibility of the stimuli permits accurate internally generated predictions during exposure. External information sources enhance adaptive plasticity only when input signals are severely degraded and cannot reliably access internal predictions. This is consistent with a computational framework for adaptive plasticity in which error-driven supervised learning relies on the ability to compute sensory prediction error signals from both internal and external sources of information.

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