Sources of variability in consonant perception of normal-hearing listeners

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Responses obtained in consonant perception experiments typically show a large variability across stimuli of the same phonetic identity. The present study investigated the influence of different potential sources of this response variability. It was distinguished between source-induced variability, referring to perceptual differences caused by acoustical differences in the speech tokens and/or the masking noise tokens, and receiver-related variability, referring to perceptual differences caused by within- and across-listener uncertainty. Consonant-vowel combinations consisting of 15 consonants followed by the vowel /i/ were spoken by two talkers and presented to eight normal-hearing listeners both in quiet and in white noise at six different signal-to-noise ratios. The obtained responses were analyzed with respect to the different sources of variability using a measure of the perceptual distance between responses. The speech-induced variability across and within talkers and the across-listener variability were substantial and of similar magnitude. The noise-induced variability, obtained with time-shifted realizations of the same random process, was smaller but significantly larger than the amount of within-listener variability, which represented the smallest effect. The results have implications for the design of consonant perception experiments and provide constraints for future models of consonant perception.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1253-1267
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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