Effects of target monitoring on understanding fluent speech

Michelle A. Blank, David B. Pisoni, Cynthia L. Mcclaskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Phoneme monitoring and word monitoring are two experimental tasks that have frequently been used to assess the processing of fluent speech. Each task is purported to provide an “online” measure of the comprehension process, and each requires listeners to pay conscious attention to some aspect or property of the sound structure of the speech signal. The present study is primarily a methodological one directed at the following question: Does the allocation of processing resources for conscious analysis of the sound structure of the speech signal affect ongoing comprehension processes or the ultimate level of understanding achieved for the content of the linguistic message? Our subjects listened to spoken stories. Then, to measure their comprehension, they answered multiple-choice questions about each story. During some stories, they were required to detect a specific phoneme; during other stories, they were required to detect a specific word; during still other stories, they were not required to monitor the utterance for any target. The monitoring results replicated earlier findings showing longer detection latencies for phoneme monitoring than for word monitoring. Somewhat surprisingly, the ancillary phoneme- and word-monitoring tasks did not adversely affect overall comprehension performance. This result undermines the specific criticism that on-line monitoring paradigms of this kind should not be used to study spoken language understanding because these tasks interfere with normal comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-388
Number of pages6
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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