On Prototypes and Phonetic Categories: A Critical Assessment of the Perceptual Magnet Effect in Speech Perception

Scott E. Lively, David B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


According to P. K. Kuhl (1991), a perceptual magnet effect occurs when discrimination accuracy is lower among better instances of a phonetic category than among poorer instances. Three experiments examined the perceptual magnet effect for the vowel /i/. In Experiment 1, participants rated some examples of /i/ as better instances of the category than others. In Experiment 2, no perceptual magnet effect was observed with materials based on Kuhl's tokens of /i/ or with items normed for each participant. In Experiment 3, participants labeled the vowels developed from Kuhl's test set. Many of the vowels in the nonprototype /i/ condition were not categorized as /i/s. This finding suggests that the comparisons obtained in Kuhl's original study spanned different phonetic categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1665-1679
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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