Evaluating the sources and functions of gradiency in phoneme categorization: An individual differences approach

Efthymia C. Kapnoula, Matthew B. Winn, Eun Jong Kong, Jan Edwards, Bob McMurray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


During spoken language comprehension listeners transform continuous acoustic cues into categories (e.g., /b/ and /p/). While long-standing research suggests that phonetic categories are activated in a gradient way, there are also clear individual differences in that more gradient categorization has been linked to various communication impairments such as dyslexia and specific language impairments (Joanisse, Manis, Keating, & Seidenberg, 2000; López-Zamora, Luque, álvarez, & Cobos, 2012; Serniclaes, Van Heghe, Mousty, Carré, & Sprenger-Charolles, 2004; Werker & Tees, 1987). Crucially, most studies have used 2-alternative forced choice (2AFC) tasks to measure the sharpness of betweencategory boundaries. Here we propose an alternative paradigm that allows us to measure categorization gradiency in a more direct way. Furthermore, we follow an individual differences approach to (a) link this measure of gradiency to multiple cue integration, (b) explore its relationship to a set of other cognitive processes, and (c) evaluate its role in individuals' ability to perceive speech in noise. Our results provide validation for this new method of assessing phoneme categorization gradiency and offer preliminary insights into how different aspects of speech perception may be linked to each other and to more general cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1594-1611
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by NIH Grant DC008089 awarded to BM.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.


  • Categorical perception
  • Executive function
  • Individual differences
  • Multiple cue integration
  • Speech perception

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