Effects of stimulus variability on perception and representation of spoken words in memory

Lynne C. Nygaard, Mitchell S. Sommers, David B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

76 Scopus citations


A series of experiments was conducted to investigate the effects of stimulus variability on the memory representations for spoken words. A serial recall task was used to study the effects of changes in speaking rate, talker variability, and overall amplitude on the initial encoding, rehearsal, and recall of lists of spoken words. Interstimulus interval (ISI) was manipulated to determine the time course and nature of processing. The results indicated that at short ISIs, variations in both talker and speaking rate imposed a processing cost that was reflected in poorer serial recall for the primacy portion of word lists. At longer ISIs, however, variation in talker characteristics resulted in improved recall in initial list positions, whereas variation in speaking rate had no effect on recall performance. Amplitude variability had no effect on serial recall across all ISIs. Taken together, these results suggest that encoding of stimulus dimensions such as talker characteristics, speaking rate, and overall amplitude may be the result of distinct perceptual operations. The effects of these sources of stimulus variability in speech are discussed with regard to perceptual saliency, processing demands, and memory representation for spoken words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-1001
Number of pages13
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)

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