Behavioral examinations of the level of auditory processing of speech context effects

Lori L. Holt, Andrew J. Lotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


One of the central findings of speech perception is that identical acoustic signals can be perceived as different speech sounds depending on adjacent speech context. Although these phonetic context effects are ubiquitous in speech perception, their neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. The present work presents a review of recent data suggesting that spectral content of speech mediates phonetic context effects and argues that these effects are likely to be governed by general auditory processes. A descriptive framework known as spectral contrast is presented as a means of interpreting these findings. Finally, and most centrally, four behavioral experiments that begin to delineate the level of the auditory system at which interactions among stimulus components occur are described. Two of these experiments investigate the influence of diotic versus dichotic presentation upon two phonetic context effects. Results indicate that context effects remain even when context is presented to the ear contralateral to that of the target syllable. The other two experiments examine the time course of phonetic context effects by manipulating the silent interval between context and target syllables. These studies reveal that phonetic context effects persist for hundreds of milliseconds. Results are interpreted in terms of auditory mechanism with particular attention to the putative link between auditory enhancement and phonetic context effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-169
Number of pages14
JournalHearing Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory enhancement
  • Context effect
  • Phonetic perception
  • Spectral contrast
  • Speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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