Individual differences in perceptual adaptability of foreign sound categories

Jessamyn Schertz, Taehong Cho, Andrew Lotto, Natasha Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Listeners possess a remarkable ability to adapt to acoustic variability in the realization of speech sound categories (e.g., different accents). The current work tests whether non-native listeners adapt their use of acoustic cues in phonetic categorization when they are confronted with changes in the distribution of cues in the input, as native listeners do, and examines to what extent these adaptation patterns are influenced by individual cue-weighting strategies. In line with previous work, native English listeners, who use voice onset time (VOT) as a primary cue to the stop voicing contrast (e.g., ‘pa’ vs. ‘ba’), adjusted their use of f0 (a secondary cue to the contrast) when confronted with a noncanonical “accent” in which the two cues gave conflicting information about category membership. Native Korean listeners’ adaptation strategies, while variable, were predictable based on their initial cue weighting strategies. In particular, listeners who used f0 as the primary cue to category membership adjusted their use of VOT (their secondary cue) in response to the noncanonical accent, mirroring the native pattern of “downweighting” a secondary cue. Results suggest that non-native listeners show native-like sensitivity to distributional information in the input and use this information to adjust categorization, just as native listeners do, with the specific trajectory of category adaptation governed by initial cue-weighting strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-367
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Categorization
  • L2 speech perception
  • Perceptual learning
  • Psycholinguistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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